While volunteering for the U.S. Armed Forces teaches men and women a plethora of skills in leadership and tenacity, veterans seeking employment after deployment find disproportionate challenges. For Chris Montoya, that statistic is both inspirational and personal.
Montoya is the founder and CEO of The Daniel and Salvador Montoya Heroes Foundation, a 501c3 nonprofit he named to honor his father and late uncle.
Motivated by the unique plights of his relatives, Montoya started Heroes Foundation in January to assist veterans and military spouses in transitioning seamlessly from military lives to fulfilling careers. The nonprofit leveraged partnerships with veteran-friendly companies and programs to find stable jobs.
A long labor of love, Heroes Foundation started out as an LLC called VettedHeroes before transitioning into an approved nonprofit.
Now, it has already launched a handful of extensive projects, from an Emergency Relief Grant to support unemployed veterans in the Texas Veterans Commission and Texas Workforce Commission network to a partnership with Spectrum/Charter for a four-part Military Hiring event.
Now, Heroes Foundation is on a mission to change the way corporations view recruitment strategies, career mobility, and inclusivity for military personnel.
Montoya’s ‘aha’ moment for fusing IT and philanthropy came about fifteen years ago when he was working to modernize digital infrastructure to be both predictive and prescriptive while at the same time racking his brain to help people.
“I had a unique opportunity as I advanced into IT managed services to learn corporate IT roadmaps and its impact on the business,” Montoya told Dallas Innovates. “Better understanding the evolving technical landscape led me to ask how we could scale innovation not just to transform one company but impact the greater good and make a difference.”
When he was not working, Montoya volunteered his mentorship to members of the U.S. Armed Forces who were attempting to find work as they switched to civilian life.
“I realized a gap preventing veterans and military spouses from progressing in the hiring process,” he says. “Veterans listened, followed instructions, attended every career fair, and changed their resume every time to meet the specific need of the company’s job description. But there was still a lack of interviews.”
Perplexed initially, Montoya came to attribute this job deficit to numerous factors.
“The recruiting process has deficiencies including being built for a civilian workforce and not adapted to military transitioning service members,” he says. “The gap, and responsibility [to hire vets], rests on the shoulders of the company.”
Statistically, underemployment is faced by a high degree of returning veterans who lose professional networks through relocating. In fact, veterans are nearly 40 percent more likely to be underemployed than non-veterans.
“Only eight percent of the U.S. population being veterans, that means the remaining 92 percent is comprised of civilians who are not trained to understand the military experience,” Montoya says. “Veterans experience higher turnover since they are 15 percent more likely to be underemployed than civilians. Over 60 percent of veterans say their experience and skills are greater or significantly greater than what is required for their current job. They are not effectively matched for the job.”
Montoya set out to fix this issue by working directly with companies, veterans, and community organizations. Today, Heroes Foundation aims to close this gap by matching veterans to careers for long-term success, no matter the financial obstacles Montoya might face.
“The pandemic has made it difficult for me to generate revenue through projects as well as receive donations,” Montoya says. “Heroes Foundation is 100 percent self-funded at this point. Although my first donation came from my dad this year; he shared that he was proud of me, which, being a person of few words, meant everything to me.”
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