Lawrence Countian Brian Ratliff knows the value of a good education. After suffering injuries in a car crash when he was just out of high school, he was forced to change his academic and career plans. Years later, Ratliff has been able to achieve a new academic goal with the help of the Northeast Kentucky Career Center JobSight and its team of expert career advisors.
Ratliff explains that his high school sports résumé was impressive enough at the time to be looking forward to at least a partial scholarship to a local college.
“I played ball and stuff, but I had a car wreck that kind of knocked me out of school,” he says. “Trying to go back after I had been out of school for a little bit, it was just too much. It was like my mom and dad were trying to send three kids to school at once.”
To relieve the burden from his parents, Ratliff decided to join the workforce without getting his degree—a decision that seemed to serve him well until 2017.
“I had worked for a merchandising company, and I got laid off. I had worked for years, but I had never drawn unemployment in my life,” Ratliff says.
After being notified of his layoff in early 2017, Ratliff made his way to his local Kentucky Career Center JobSight office in Louisa to speak with someone about his unemployment benefits. When he got there, though, he received some good news he had no idea would be coming to him.
“I was not aware at all of the services available up here at Northeast,” Ratliff admits.
A partner in the Kentucky Career Center JobSight network of workforce centers, Northeast Kentucky Community Action Program provides Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) services in Carter, Elliott, and Lawrence 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, or who need assistance being retrained or going to school.
Expert Career Advisor Bridget James spoke with Ratliff about the opportunities available to him at Northeast, including help with job hunting, retraining, and even going back to school. One of the retraining programs that caught Ratliff’s attention was the Lineman and Fiber Optic training class offered through Big Sandy Community and Technical College (BSCTC).
“I told her sure, I would love to do that,” Ratliff says, adding that he was even more interested in the training since it would include getting his commercial driver’s license (CDL), which he was very excited to pursue.
Ratliff started the training in August 2017 and had graduated with all of his certifications by November.
“Bridget James was just fantastic. She worked with me anytime I would need her. I could call her up saying, ‘Bridget, I need this, Bridget I need that. Can you add something to my résumé?’ She was on it,” Ratliff says. “I’m going to tell you right now that woman is phenomenal at what she does, and she really took care of me as far as making sure that I was able to get where I wanted to go.”
Shortly after finishing the program, Ratliff said he was fortunate that he earned his CDL as part of the program, which allowed him to take a job as a driver with Kentucky Oil and Refinery, where he worked for the better part of a year.
“It’s a great company to work for. The pay wasn’t great, but you’re just starting out,” he says.
With that experience now on his résumé, Ratliff says he kept an eye out for any other job openings in his new career field.
“There were some job openings that came open at Marathon in their transportation department, and I was able to get on there part-time,” he explains. “I think I worked like that for about two or three months, and then I actually got on full-time, so I’m a full-time transport driver now.”
Looking back, Ratliff says he’s sure he would not be working a job like he is now had he not learned of the services available to him at Northeast.
“I would probably be working at some department store, probably making nothing,” he says. “And I sure wouldn’t have been able to do it (go to school) on my own because I’ve got to make money just like anybody else, you know. I can’t take time off like that, that’s the thing about it.”
Ratliff says he pushes anyone in a situation similar to his to go to their local Kentucky Career Center JobSight to find out what can be done for them.
“I tell them, too, to go to trade school because you can make better money than you ever could flipping burgers,” he adds.
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.organd http://www.facebook.com/ekcep.