By John L. Ross / Staff Writer
WILLIAMSBURG -- Jobs may be difficult to attain during this current economic situation, but thanks to Kentucky Teleworks, it may have gotten just a little bit easier.
Kentucky Teleworks is a service of the Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program, Inc., which, according to the EKCEP website, assists approximately a half million workers and businesses in 23 eastern Kentucky counties with “(meeting) the challenges and (seizing) the opportunities of today’s economy.”
That includes Laurel, Knox and Whitley counties.
Whitley County was the site of a Teleworks job fair Friday, and according to Whitley County Judge-Executive Pat White, Jr., it was and will be an excellent resource for jobseekers in the county.
“There’s a new way for people across the region seeking employment to find work,” White said. “And these jobs can be worked from home.”
As there have been many jobs lost throughout this region, including the potential layoffs at CSC, White said the county needs to seek ways to replace the lost jobs.
“We need to move up on a broad scope,” he said. “We’re seeking ways to get people who come out of (hard times) back to work.”
Some people the county wants to help include those who complete a drug abuse rehabilitation program. White explained that lack of jobs becomes a roadblock for these potential employees. “With the large drug problem, it was really hard for those leaving rehab to find a job,” he said. “Then those people who try to succeed end up falling right back into their old ways.”
White said most of the jobs provided are telemarketing and customer service jobs which had been performed on other continents. “We’re moving these jobs back onshore into the U.S.,” White said.
He also said most of these companies offer more than just a paycheck. “Some of these companies offer full benefits,” White said. “Some of these jobs are with big-name companies, such as Cincinnati Bell.
“This helps a lot more people.”
While Friday’s job fair was the only one scheduled for Teleworks, White said it is possible fairs would come in the future and maybe even a more permanent site would be set up. “A local site is possible,” he said.
Michael Warren, special projects coordinator for Teleworks, was there Friday conducting initial screenings.
He said if those interested in working couldn’t make Friday’s screening then they can easily access the website to review and apply for available positions. That address is kentuckyteleworks.com. Warren said all the tools are in place on this site for people willing to work. “Now if you want to work, you can find a job,” he said.
The Teleworks initiative began about two years ago, according to Warren. “In the mountains times are tough and jobs are scarce,” Warren said. “This (opportunity) is a game changer.”
Kentucky government has invested millions in the state’s technical infrastructure, according to Warren, and that puts the state at the top for these “telework” opportunities. “This (region) has in place the fiber optic infrastructure that puts us ahead of much of the nation,” he said.
It is because of this ready-made infrastructure that Warren feels Kentucky is ideally suited to accommodate these types of jobs and offer them to willing workers. “We want to link those who want to work from home with legitimate companies,” he said. “We find jobs, we vet them to ensure they’re not scams, then we post it on the site.”
Some companies are already signed on with Teleworks, according to Warren. “We’ve now begun entering into working agreements with several companies,” he said.
Once a potential employee expresses interest in a job, then he or she must be screened by the Teleworks group, Warren said. Once people get through the screening process, then companies seeking competent employees will give preferential consideration to those Teleworks members when being considered for hire.
This saves the participating company time and money, Warren said, as the interviews the companies conduct are after the time-consuming screening process performed by Teleworks.
Since the first of the year, Warren said hiring rates have steadily improved. “We’ve gotten 500-plus people to work at various legitimate companies,” he said.
According to Warren, nine different companies currently are under working agreements with Teleworks. “At this time last year we had just one,” he said, hoping more agreements are reached. “Ideally we’d like for there to be 90 or even 900 companies,” he said.
More than 1,000 jobs are listed on the general site, Warren said, and the nine companies under the work agreement have more than 3,000 offerings. Most positions are immediate hires. “It doesn’t matter where you’re at geographically,” said Warren. “It matters what you can do.”
Director of Whitley County Projects Amber Owens said that people were still coming Friday after the job fair officially ended at 4 p.m.
Owens said more than 120 people came to be screened for the various work-at-home positions. Some people screened Friday were immediately matched with jobs with one of the nine companies, Cincinnati Bell.
She said those people will simply have to go to the hiring company’s website, apply for the position they were matched with based on their skills, and most likely they’ll be hired. “We’ve got some people back here who are headed for Cincinnati (for training),” she said.