When Loreta Robinson’s employer announced plans to move the customer service center where she had worked in Winchester, Ky., she decided not to follow the job to Michigan, instead opting to remain in her native Frenchburg and look for work closer to home.
After all, Robinson possessed a skill set employers look for in potential hires and plenty of experience in administrative and customer service work. Finding a new job shouldn’t prove difficult.
But after a few months of searching for work on her own, things weren’t working out. In part, she felt her age presented an obstacle to overcome, though she was still in her 40s and had a strong work history to rely upon.
“I had been looking for a job for two or three months, and at my age there’s not a lot out there,” Robinson said.
It was June 2016 when Robinson happened upon a flyer at her local grocery store promoting employment services through the Kentucky Career Center JobSight and Gateway Community Action Agency in Menifee County.
She called the number on the flyer and made an appointment, though she wasn’t quite sure what to expect. She wasn’t very familiar with Gateway or the services the agency offered.
Gateway Community Action provides Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) services in Menifee and Morgan counties, under contract with the Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program, Inc. (EKCEP). Those services include programs for adults, dislocated workers, and for in-school and out-of-school youth who may need assistance honing skills such as résumé building or networking with local employers.
“When I went in, they helped me sign up, fill out the paperwork, and put me on a computer and helped me do my résumé,” Robinson said.
Robinson was eventually paired with Cindy Hurt, an expert career advisor who would ultimately help Robinson re-enter the workforce and land a job. And it wasn’t long after meeting her new client that Hurt said they had a plan ready to move Robinson forward in her job search.
“Teleworking was something she was interested in, but she didn’t know how to go about the process,” Hurt said, adding that she introduced Robinson to a program called Teleworks USA.
An initiative of EKCEP, Teleworks USA connects prospective teleworkers with legitimate remote-work opportunities and digital literacy workshops through its website, www.teleworksusa.com.
Hurt assisted Robinson as she created a profile on the Teleworks USA website, developed a digital résumé, and began searching for available jobs listed on the site. Robinson admitted to a bit of apprehension about work-from-home jobs, and wondered if they were just scam positions.
“I first talked with Cindy, and she explained everything,” Robinson says. “All of the companies on the (Teleworks USA) site were legit companies, and she put me more at ease with that and she walked me through how to actually search for jobs and how they were listed.”
Robinson applied for several jobs, and it wasn’t long before she landed a work-from-home position with the global services company Concentrix. Even still, there remained a small hurdle Robinson would have to clear before she could begin the hiring process.
“It looked as if I was going to get the job, but I had to get a headset,” Robinson explained.
The position Robinson applied for provides customer support for a major computer software and hardware company. She would provide that support on her home computer via a broadband internet connection. A headset was a required piece of equipment that Robinson couldn’t afford after three months without a steady income.
Fortunately, Hurt determined that Robinson was eligible for supportive services and was able to cover the cost of the headset through WIOA funds. Robinson noted that without assistance from her career advisor, the position with Concentrix would have fallen through.
“If they hadn’t been able to help with the headset, I wouldn’t have been able to pick up the cost for it,” Robinson said.
Robinson began her first work-from-home job in July 2016, just a month after first signing up for services with Gateway. There was an initial period of getting used to working from home, she said, especially during the first few days of training. But it wasn’t long before she made the adjustment and it was like any other job.
“I had a little trouble the first couple of weeks, because you’d be sitting there in training and you’re on camera, and I’d be looking around and I could really get up and do the dishes,” Robinson said with a laugh. “But you can’t do that. You’ve got to get in the mindset that this is a job, you’ve got to get focused, and Concentrix helped me with that.”
Fast forward to January 2017 and Robinson says she’s settled into her job and enjoying it. And when she thinks back, she’s glad that she talked herself into visiting the Gateway office.
“I’ve told everybody, run in there and Cindy’s got your back,” she says. “They made it very easy for me to relax, and they let me know they were there to help me, not pass any judgment on me for needing help. They just put me at ease.”
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.