Whittney Anderson needed a job close to home. She had earned a good wage at her previous job in Mt. Sterling, but the drive from her home in Owsley County was nearly two hours each way. With a growing family, that commute has become untenable.
But Anderson also knew that finding work in or near her hometown of Booneville – population 80 – would likely be a challenge.
“Where I live, things are so far away. That’s wear and tear on my vehicle,” she says, referencing her previous job. “I was out $100 a week for gas, and would have to leave at four in the morning, get there at six then get off at five, but wouldn’t get home until seven.”
The job market within Owsley County is certainly challenging for jobseekers. When Anderson first happened upon the newly opened Teleworks USA hub in Booneville, her interest piqued, but she wasn’t sure it was a legitimate avenue to a new job.
An initiative of the Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program, Inc. (EKCEP), Teleworks USA identifies and develops legitimate remote-work, distance learning opportunities. The Booneville teleworks hub opened in July 2016 as means to prepare and connect jobseekers in the area with teleworking opportunities.
Having just welcomed a new baby, Anderson says she wasn’t interested in accepting another position where she would have to spend hours on the road and away from her family. Working from home through a computer and broadband connection sounded like a blessing, though she admits to skepticism at first.
“At first it’s like you think it’s too good to be true because you’re getting good money and you’re staying at home,” she says.
She visited the new hub in Booneville to find out what Teleworks USA could do to assist her in finding a new job, but decided not to pursue it at the time. After a couple of weeks, however, she’d heard enough stories of people in Owsley County getting connected with jobs through Teleworks USA, she decided to pay the hub a second visit.
Anderson quickly enrolled in Teleworks USA’s digital literacy and customer service workshops, which are facilitated by Booneville Hub Manager Carla Gabbard and provide prospective teleworkers with different certificates and a working knowledge of what they can expect on the job.
Once she completed the workshops, Anderson says the process of applying for a new position and being offered a job was quick, having received an offer just a couple of days after submitting her résumé with U-Haul, a well-known moving equipment and storage rental company operating throughout the United States.
“It happened so fast, and before I knew it I had this great job with U-Haul, and it pays really good money,” she says. “It’s the best job I’ve ever had.”
Having been on the job for several weeks now, Anderson’s duties include handling reservations for U-Haul trailers and trucks, and she receives a commission on top of her regular salary for each reservation she makes.
The benefits of working from home certainly include the money she’s saving from not having to commute, but she’s also finding more time for her family as a result.
“Before, I was getting no home time,” she says. “I was on the road more than I was at home.”
But that isn’t to say that teleworking is, in a practical sense, different from working at an office, Anderson adds. The work is structured like any other job at a brick-and-mortar facility. There are shifts and breaks are scheduled, and Anderson’s employer expects a certain level of professionalism in her performance.
“It’s still a job,” she says. “I’m closed off, it’s like my own little office without any background noise. But whenever it’s time for lunch, I just get up and go to the kitchen. It’s so simple and saves a lot of money.”
Anderson describes her job as a “blessing” and urges anyone looking for work to try teleworking. It may take an adjustment at first, but she adds the key is to not get discouraged because the end result is worth the time.
“Definitely take a look at it,” she says. “There are jobs coming in every day.”
The Booneville Teleworks Hub features up to 30 workstations ready for teleworkers who may not have the appropriate equipment or internet connections to work from home. Teleworks USA also operates hubs in Annville, Beattyville, Harlan, Hazard, and Pike County.
Seating for digital literacy and customer service workshops is limited, so interested jobseekers in Owsley and surrounding counties should make sure they contact Carla Gabbard at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call her at 606-438-5399.
EKCEP, a nonprofit workforce development agency headquartered in Hazard, Ky., serves the citizens of 23 Appalachian coalfield counties. The agency provides an array of workforce development services, administers the Hiring Our Miners Everyday (H.O.M.E.) program for dislocated coal miners and their spouses, and is the White House-designated lead organization for the federal TechHire designation for Eastern Kentucky. Learn more about us at http://www.ekcep.org, http://www.jobsight.org and http://www.facebook.com/ekcep.