As Perry Countian Madison Jones sits in the offices of the Kentucky Career Center JobSight in Hazard, the joy that spreads across her face is pure and obvious to anyone in the room when she talks about something most people have the opposite reaction to—her job.
“Ever since I was little that’s the only job I’ve ever wanted to do,” Madison, a dental hygienist at the Vicco Dental Center, explains as she fidgets slightly with her hands.
“It was just a very expensive program, and I didn’t really have the funds that I needed to be able to complete it,” she continues.
In late 2014, Jones was employed but earning minimum wage. Despite the hours she was putting in each week, her salary simpy wasn’t enough to cover the costs for training or a college education.
“That doesn’t really allow you enough money to be able to attend school. I made enough to survive—gas, food, stuff like that,” she explains. “I knew I wanted to go to college and make something of myself, I just didn’t know how I was going to be able to do that.”
Luckily, Jones took some advice from her mother and visited her local Kentucky Career Center JobSight, located at the offices of LKLP Community Action in Hazard, to find out what possible assistance was available to her. As it turned out, Jones would be eligible for services from a variety of agencies all geared toward preparing her for a new career.
LKLP, for instance, provides Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act (WIOA) services in Perry, Knott, Leslie, and Letcher counties under contract with the Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program, Inc., (EKCEP), which in turn administers WIOA programs in 23 mountain counties and also manages the Kentucky Career Center JobSight network of workforce centers. Those centers, like the one in Hazard, provide access to more than a dozen programs and services for jobseekers and employers under one roof.
“They made it really easy for me,” Jones says of her experience one-on-one with her career advisor, adding that she also worked with Office of Vocational Rehab (OVR) staff at the JobSight to receive tuition assistance and supportive services to get her through school. “I just came up here and told them what I was looking for, and they kind of took over and made it really easy for me to get what I needed.”
Jones says that within a month, all of her paperwork was submitted and she was ready to begin the spring 2015 semester of the dental hygienist program at Hazard Community & Technical College.
Two years in school while working and taking care of a family flew by, Jones says, and before she knew it she was graduating in May 2017 with the ticket to her dream job.
Following graduation, Jones returned to the LKLP and JobSight offices and was referred to Project CASE Career Coordinator Tesa Turner, who would assist her with job placement services.
Project CASE, in partnership with EKCEP and Kentucky Career Center JobSight, assists people with barriers to employment to access training opportunities and jobs in high-demand and high-growth areas by forging strong connections between employers, educators, and workforce partners.
The program was created to help increase the capacity of Kentucky’s Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR) and Office for the Blind (OFB) to reach employers who can provide work experiences, such as job shadowing, internships, and apprenticeships, with the ultimate goal of job placement. Project CASE is a grant-funded program, with funding provided through the Rehabilitation Services Administration, Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, and the Department of Education.
“They helped me make a résumé, helped me with any applications that I needed, and they actually helped me find the job that I have now,” she says, smiling brightly.
Turner visited local employers to help find the perfect position for Jones, and inevitably set up an interview with Vicco Dental Center, which landed Jones her current job.
“Her employers are so excited to have her as part of their team,” Turner said.
Looking back, Jones admits that she knows her life would likely be drastically different had she not taken her mother’s advice and visited the JobSight office.
“I’d probably still be working a minimum wage job, and not having that life that I wanted, not being able to provide for my family and provide for myself,” she says. “Now that I have the job, I’m very grateful that they helped me because I have the job I’ve always dreamed of.”
Jones says anyone who is questioning how they might better themselves, whether it be with education or a new career, should absolutely make a trip to their local JobSight and see what employment services are available.
“There aren’t a lot of people that have the funds around here to be able to go to school and be able to do what they want with their lives. To be able to come up here and have a program like this that can help you go to school and get the education that you need—I think it’s great,” she says.
“Don’t be hesitant. I was a little hesitant about it at first,” she adds. “It’s definitely worth it. You’ll be glad you did it in the end.”
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.