When I first dreamt up the idea of a podcast just for military spouses, I knew that I wanted to showcase the voice of a variety of amazing women doing amazing things. I hoped the guests would range from smaller business owners rocking their industry all the way up to the big girls making serious waves. What a better start to the series than interviewing the astounding Heledd Kendrick, CEO and Founder of Recruit for Spouses.
Recruit for Spouses is a social enterprise, set up to help military wives and partners into employment, to work with employers to change mind-set, and to mentor the applicants while they’re job searching. The best part? Once you’ve got the job, they don’t just leave you there. They follow up with both applicant and employer to ensure that the placement is working for both parties.
Recruit for Spouses has aided over 5,000 spouses and partners of serving UK personnel gain employment all over the UK. Since 2009 Heledd and her team have shaped HR policy, and Heledd herself has won David Cameron’s Big Society Award, a Women in Defence award and has been granted a fellowship at the Royal Academy of Arts.
Heledd is a current Army wife and has built the company from her married quarter. She’s championing the talent of the military spouse with the MoD and with the team at Alexander Mann Solutions she is working with Recruit for Spouses to pioneer spousal employment.
She’s now taking on her biggest challenge yet, collating thousands of case studies as evidence of the true nature of the sacrifices spouses have made with their careers to support their serving partners. You can find my own story HERE, or find out about the Recruit for Spouses case studies HERE.
In the podcast we talk about the things that we all know, about how spouses in the UK are a hugely resourceful and talented community that are being largely under-utilised due to lack of support and knowledge of employers about our circumstances.
Soon after she got married, Heledd realised that there were women from all different walks of life that had subjugated their careers for their partners work, and she knew it just didn’t feel right. She recognised that the old answer of ‘you knew what you were marrying into’ just isn’t the case. A lot of spouses don’t comprehend the extent of how military life will impact their career – they have a fair idea but until that point where someone’s career has to give, they just struggle through.
Sadly, the bulk of civilian employers in the UK don’t quite seem to understand that we are a highly qualified and resourceful collective that are keen to work at a level we are trained for. They worry that we might be unable to hold down employment while being military spouses. That unconscious bias means that spouses are fighting a losing battle. Recruit for Spouses is helping change these views in the 25-page ENEI guide – Employing Military Spouses A Guide for Employers that is helping shape HR policy. They work with employers to help them understand how they can unlock the full potential of the military spouse with the right training and support.
But this is no surprise, we already know this. We are living this life daily and most of us have probably been disadvantaged when applying for employment or trying to continue our career. So where’s the support?
Click on any of the well-known veterans’ charity websites and you will see a clear link to information on how to support the veteran, and it’s fantastic to see veteran employment getting the attention it deserves. The UK should be ensuring that upon leaving the Armed Forces veterans are able to translate their skills to civilian employment. The topic of veteran employment is being addressed exactly as it should be.
There is, however, another employment topic that the MoD should be concerned about and it is one that receives little attention – military spouse employment.
Recruit for Spouses have a whole series of case studies, facts and figures that support the need for spousal employment. What astounded me most when talking to Heledd, who has access to the big-wigs, is that she doesn’t seem to be listened to. One of our few voices within the MoD is being ignored. Recruit for Spouses believe that by ignoring the needs of the spouse and the sacrifices that they have made to support their partners, retainment in the Armed Forces will suffer. The lack of a second income and the effect an unhappy family could have on a relationship could lead to the MoD losing its best people. To coin a very old phrase, it is quite literally ‘happy wife, happy life’.
The solution? Heledd’s ‘little drum’. Recruit for Spouses believe they are good for retention, and I agree. Assisting the spouse to find worthwhile employment, or self-employment, at the level they are qualified for, means that they are content. When he is on operations in the darkest parts of the world, my husband knows that I am busy and content and achieving things that I want to. It means that he can focus on his own challenging work, and it means that when he returns from operations he’s met with a happy home. Without my business I would be asking my husband to choose between me and his career; either choice would make him miserable. Heledd and her ‘little-drum’ are championing this view with the MoD, but we need to make it louder. Fill out the surveys, get involved with the discussion and give Recruit for Spouses the facts they need to talk to the MoD and be listened to.
Military spouses are incredibly resilient and resourceful. We can manage being transient, and we can manage our partners being operational. We do not need charity, we just need the correct tools to achieve amazing things.
As you can probably tell, I am a massive fan of this amazing lady! While I was researching her and Recruit for Spouses for this podcast I found that what she’s achieved for us, the spouse, is phenomenal. She’s inspired by the everyday women she meets that are doing some remarkable things despite the pressures of modern military life, many of whom she talks about in the podcast.
This first and very special podcast is a brilliant listen, especially if you are feeling a bit lost in this military magnolia wall life. You can find it on Apple Podcasts and HERE.
Well done again for doing this, I think it’s absolutely brilliant. There are so many inspiring ladies that you can talk to, who are doing amazing things, and I cannot wait to hear all the fantastic stories! – Heledd Kendrick, Founder and CEO at Recruit for Spouses