“I’m blessed,” Susie Barker says of her life.
Barker admits, however, that she wouldn’t have used those exact words to describe her life at the beginning of 2018. Sitting at her home in Knox County, she explains how her life was upgraded in a matter of months thanks to her local KCEOC Kentucky Career Center JobSight.
“I was not employed,” she says. “I did not have my GED or anything, so, you could only get a job at like McDonald’s or somewhere that did not require a high school diploma and I didn’t want that.”
With some time on her hands, Barker was able to dedicate herself more to working with the youth at her church. When she brought the church’s youth group to a meeting of local community agencies, she discovered services at KCEOC that would help her not only land a job, but launch a new career.
A partner in the Kentucky Career Center JobSight network of workforce centers, KCEOC provides Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) services in Knox County, 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, or who need assistance being retrained or going to school.
One of the initiatives that were focused on at the time was the Paths 2 Promise (P2P) program.
P2P was a pilot project that teamed up local and state agencies to help increase employment among residents who receive benefits through the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) in Kentucky’s Promise Zone counties, which include Bell, Harlan, Clay, Letcher, Leslie, Perry, Knox, and Whitley counties. Partners and employers coordinated to help educate and skill up participants through work-based learning opportunities, internships, and on-the-job training (OJT), as well as educational and training programs.
Enrollment in P2P ended in August 2018, but many of the services available through the program are also offered at KCEOC’s office in Barbourville.
“I thought about it for a couple of weeks, if that was something that I was interested in because I knew that I needed my GED, but I had just never pursued it,” Barker says.
By the end of June 2018, though, she’d decided that trying it out couldn’t hurt anything. So, she called KCEOC and made an appointment with expert Career Advisor Beverly Patterson to see if she would be eligible for the program.
“I think it was like the next day—it was really quick ... filled out the paperwork,” Barker remembers. “We were just talking about what I wanted to do with my life, and that’s when I was enrolled into GED classes."
Two days later, Barker was on the road to receiving her GED—something she says she was able to achieve in a much shorter time than she had expected.
“It only took a month to get my GED,” she says. “I was ecstatic!”
Shortly after learning she’d passed, Barker returned to Patterson to see what her options were in terms of available employment opportunities.
“Miss Beverly (Patterson) told me about Choice MD. She thought it might be a good fit,” Barker says.
Choice MD offers a 16-week certified clinical medical assistant (CMA) program out of London, Ky. Barker says once she heard about the program she quickly enrolled. The program was able to cover costs of the certification process, as well as any supplies and uniforms she needed.
Part of the Choice MD program includes an externship where students will work in an actual clinic for several hours to be eligible for graduation. Barker explains that it was her externship at Corbin Family Health that landed her the job she has now.
“I was actually working before I graduated,” she says, adding that she officially started working at Corbin Family Health on November 1, 2018. “After I’d done my externship it led right into a job.”
After having such success, Barker says she couldn’t imagine how her life would have been had she not heard of the resources available at KCEOC.
“I would have never gone back for my GED, and then I wouldn’t have had a chance to go to the Choice MD and get the job that I have now because it all starts with your education,” she says.
Barker adds that KCEOC and P2P have been lifesavers for her and her family and urges anyone who is struggling with their career or finding a job to reach out to their local Kentucky Career Center JobSight.
“They break it down in your language to where you would understand. If they were doing something and you didn’t understand it, they would slow it down because it was like one-on-one,” Barker explains. “If it can help me, it can help anybody.”
Paths 2 Promise has been funded at least in part with Federal funds from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The contents of this publication do not necessarily reflect the view or policies of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government. USDA is an equal opportunity employer and provider.
Partners in the Paths 2 Promise pilot project include the Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program, Inc. (EKCEP), the Kentucky Department for Community Based Services (DCBS), the Kentucky Department of Workforce Investment branded as the Kentucky Career Centers (KCC), Kentucky Adult Education (KYAE), and the Kentucky Community and Technical College System (KCTCS).
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 and operates the Kentucky Career Center JobSight network of workforce centers, which provide access to more than a dozen state and federal programs that offer employment and training assistance for jobseekers and employers all under one roof. Learn more about us at http://www.ekcep.org, http://www.jobsight.org and http://www.facebook.com/ekcep.