Imagine that you’re a college-educated worker with experience in your field, but, once you’re hired, you end up in a position for which you’re overqualified. It’s the story of Dan Montoya, a U.S. Marine and Vietnam veteran, who unknowingly kickstarted his sons’ passion project, VettedHeroes. It’s also the story of many other veterans who are working to rejoin the civilian world.
VettedHeroes, founded by Chris Montoya, is an organization designed to create top-tier employment opportunities for veterans in the process of transitioning back into civilian life.
Montoya is a Dallas-based entrepreneur who leads veteran hiring initiatives at Interstate Batteries. Although he’s not a veteran, Montoya’s dad’s tale of hiring holdups inspired him to create what could be the next big thing in veteran hiring — a digital interface that will better match vets with apprenticeships and jobs that actually meet their needs, desires, and work experiences.
“This is something that is a far greater mission — to honor those who have voluntarily served. They don’t look for handouts and are not looking for charity.”
VettedHeroes is a bootstrap startup that emerged from a goal and a partnership between Montoya and then-acquaintance Kristie Whites, who is now VettedHeroes’ COO. With only $1,500 and a little support, both from dad, Montoya began work to make his dream a reality in 2016. And after two years of hard work, his vision is taking shape.
“The goal is to create and cultivate a corporate community and have [veterans and corporations] connect with one another to extend trainings, jobs, blogs, and more information,” Montoya said. “He has a resource that he can actually go to and get more than just a job description or job posting.”
VettedHeroes’ digital interface won’t look like the average job board, a decision Montoya said is intentional. In designing the platform, Montoya collaborated with HireVue, a hiring organization that incorporates artificial intelligence technologies into VettedHeroes’ website.
His goal is to use the technologies to overcome the challenges of hiring — such as the flawed resume review process and fruitless searches through job boards — and allow machine learning technology to identify top candidates based on their digital profiles.
From there, virtual reality technology could be used to conduct interviews, give workplace tours, or deliver training curricula.
In addition, through a Department of Labor collaboration, VettedHeroes works to match vets with educational apprenticeships, including those in white-collar, technological fields.
“The IT industry needs qualified individuals, as so much of what we do is reliant on technology; yet pulling that talent off the street is not easy, so if you can’t find it, build it,” said Roxann Griffith, a National Strategic Outreach Specialist at the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Strategic Outreach. “This model allows the employer to not only train but retain the talent. The veterans benefit, as they are easily adaptable, very trainable, and usually bring a lot of the ‘soft’ skills to the table, which may be rare among their peers.”
Montoya describes the apprenticeships as long-term training programs (sometimes up to two years) with a dedicated curriculum that takes veterans from novices to industry professionals with real world experience.
The Department of Labor’s Veterans Employment and Training Services division focuses on four “P” items when it comes to veterans’ training and hiring:
- Preparing America’s veterans, service members, and their spouses for meaningful careers,
- Providing them with employment resources and expertise,
- Promoting their employment opportunities, and
- Protecting their employment rights.
So far, Griffith said, the partnership between the Department of Labor and VettedHeroes has taught some 300 organizations about hiring and retaining veteran talent, and the entities have collaborated to create 10 registered apprenticeships. The department also offers several educational apprenticeships to veterans outside of VettedHeroes.
But, there’s work yet to be done. Even as unemployment rates drop for veterans (only 2.9 percent are unemployed), their spouses struggle to find fulfilling employment.
Somewhere between 10.2 and 16 percent of military spouses are unemployed, the White House reported in 2017, citing two studies. So Montoya, in effort to tackle spouse unemployment, also offers employment services to the spouses of military members and veterans.
“The difficulty with military spouses is that they look like job hoppers,” Montoya said. “They follow their spouse… from location to location. A lot of the challenge is that if they self-identify, a company will, in some cases, think, ‘Oh, they’re going to be gone and there’s no point in hiring them.'”
VettedHeroes is slated to roll out its interface in January, with a pilot testing in March during a hiring fair in Puerto Rico. Montoya, in the meantime, holds true to his original goals.
“This is something that is a far greater mission — to honor those who have voluntarily served. They don’t look for handouts and are not looking for charity,” Montoya said. “That you give them an opportunity … They don’t want [a handout]. What they want is an actual opportunity, a job.”
This article was updated at 10:48 a.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 20, to clarify information about Department of Labor apprenticeships.
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