Kristen Ball had more than a decade of experience as a service manager for a local mobile home business when she was abruptly laid off, hers becoming one of thousands of jobs lost during the years of Eastern Kentucky’s economic downturn.
And Ball’s experience was much like everyone else’s.
“It was awful,” Ball says, wringing her hands a bit as she remembers, her face taking a dour expression. “Your bills and stuff are still due, because that kind of stuff doesn’t stop. That kind of hurt.”
Ball, a resident of Knox County, quickly signed up for unemployment insurance benefits at her local Office of Employment and Training, and also decided to obtain her GED to help improve her prospects of finding a new job. She’d attempted to obtain her GED before, but it hadn’t worked out. This time, she notes, it would be different.
Ball paid a visit to the Kentucky Adult Education office in Barbourville and began what would become a seven-month process to earn her high school equivalency. It was at the Adult Education office where she was eventually referred to the KCEOC Community Action Partnership in Barbourville for additional career and employment services. She enrolled there in late 2016, she says.
KCEOC provides Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) services in Knox County under contract with the Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program (EKCEP), Inc. 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.
Ball met with a career advisor who determined she was eligible for services at KCEOC. Those services included preparing her for new job interviews and developing an effective résumé while job searching. She was also presented with a couple of options for work experience in the form of part-time jobs, and received supportive services to help with transportation to and from work, and purchasing new clothes for job interviews.
“It was amazing,” Ball says. “They coached me what to say and what to do, and they did a program that told us about jobs and how to act in the interview. By them helping you get started, it really takes a load off your back.”
After Ball obtained her GED, with the help of her career advisor, she entered a 16-week training program with Choice MD to earn a medical assistant certification, which she successfully completed. It was something Ball says she never thought she would be interested in doing. But her work experience during enrollment coupled with the new certification served as a boost to her confidence that she needed to continue her job search.
“I just didn’t think it was for me, but now that I’ve done it and I’m certified, it makes me think I can do anything,” she says. “It was a big relief. For me it was a big accomplishment, because now I feel like I don't have to worry about getting a job.”
Fast-forward to present day and Ball is working for Cumberland River Behavioral Health, where she helps care for a roster of clients. It’s a job for which she had applied before but wasn’t eligible as she hadn’t yet obtained her GED. It’s also a position that she says she was able to land thanks to the assistance and encouragement she received from her career advisors at KCEOC.
“You get frustrated, I got frustrated just getting my GED because it was hard for me,” Ball says. “But as long as there’s somebody there telling you that you can, then you will. And that’s what I want to do more of—helping people. I love helping people because it makes me feel good.”
Ball says she’s already pointed others to KCEOC for assistance in landing new jobs for themselves, and she’s happy for her own experience there. Undergoing a job search alone is one thing, she notes, but the support of a career advisor who is an expert on the local job market made things that much easier.
“When you are out there on your own doing it, you’re clueless,” Ball says. “You don’t know where to go, how to start, how to act, especially if you’ve been in one certain job for years. I always tell people about KCEOC and the program here.”
If you’re in Knox County and need employment assistance, contact KCEOC at 606-546-2639. If you live outside of Knox County, log on to jobsight.org/locations to locate your nearest Kentucky Career Center JobSight to contact a career advisor today.
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.