Hyden, KY. – Leslie Countian Jeremiah Ford knows hard work.
After finishing college, the Hyden native moved to Minnesota to work in the foodservice industry, working his way into an executive sous chef position at a prestigious Michelin 4-star rated restaurant. Long workdays spent on his feet over hot stoves, handling dangerous kitchen equipment, and dealing with irate customers instilled in Ford an appreciation of hard work.
Unfortunately, due to what he calls a “series of unfortunate events,” Ford was forced to move back to his hometown around 2017. It was at that time he realized that his world would be flipped from working hard at his job to working hard looking for a job.
“I was trying to find something that paid more than minimum wage,” Ford says of his job hunt after returning to Hyden.
Ford explains that with no other viable options, he looked to a company in a neighboring county that offered jobs paying more than $7.25 starting wage. He says he worked there for eight months before the commute began taking a toll.
“Driving back and forth was getting real tiring, to say the least,” he says, adding that the more than an hour-long round trip drive was taxing not only on him but on his family and the wages he was making at the time.
It was around this time that Ford was nudged in the direction of a newer initiative that had arrived in Hyden around the same time he had in 2017.
“I heard about Teleworks USA through Carol Joseph, the mayor of Hyden. She’s a big promoter of it, huge,” Ford explains. “She was actually the one who pushed me to come down here and just give it a shot.”
An initiative of the Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program, Inc. (EKCEP), Teleworks USA identifies and develops legitimate remote-work job opportunities with multiple national and global companies. Teleworks USA’s team of expert managers also helps prepare people for the jobs by upskilling them in customer service and technical support workshops, helping them craft strong résumés and hone their interviewing skills, and assisting them in applying for available remote-work positions they can work within their homes or eight Teleworks Hubs.
Ford admits he was skeptical of the program before contacting Hyden Teleworks Hub Manager Mollie Bentley to set up an appointment to get the ball rolling.
“I was kind of confused, you know. You hear Teleworks and you’re like, is it like telemarketing, is it a scam, because that’s what me and everybody else I’ve ever talked to says,” he says, chuckling. “It sounds too good.”
Bentley was able to quell Ford’s fears, though, and assured him that Teleworks was just as good as it sounded—if not better. The same day she met with him to discuss the program, she also helped him with his assessments and applying for teleworking positions.
“She helped every step of the way. Constant emails, helped me figure out what I was doing,” Ford gushes. “They do good work. They help a lot of people get a lot of good jobs, and I think that’s the main focus of Teleworks is just to get people working again.”
Ford met with Bentley to begin the application process in November 2018, and before the month was out he’d heard back from a company with a job offer.
Ford gave notice at his other job and spent the next nine months working as a customer service agent for a global customer support center. He was able to work from the Hub in Hyden, which worked perfectly for him, he says, as his home internet speeds were not up to par with most teleworking standards and he has two children at home that may not always make for the quietest working environment.
Around August 2019, though, Ford realized that he was not meshing well with the company he’d started his Teleworks experience with. For many, the thought of changing careers can be daunting, but Ford says the process was as easy as a quick conversation with Bentley.
“I literally walked into her office and said I wanted to see if there was anything else open and that I wanted a new contract. Literally, right away she was like we’ve got this open and we’ve got this open. You can apply and we’ll get you set up,” he says, adding that his Hub manager is always available to talk with current or prospective teleworkers.
Within a few days, Concentrix had hired Ford as a chat sales representative for a global electronics and software company, a position that he still holds today. As he sits at a computer station in the Hyden Hub, Ford swivels slightly in his chair and grins crookedly.
“It’s pretty easy money. You do have to work, you do have to show up, and you do have to take your calls,” he says. “But, really, you’re not doing that much work, compared to what I have done in other jobs.”
Ford adds that becoming a teleworker at the Hyden Hub has allowed his girlfriend to be a stay-at-home mom for their two children for over a year now while he still makes more than enough to support them and save money. Not only has his immediate family benefitted from Teleworks, but other family members have jumped on board as well.
“My mom, she’s working at Teleworks now. She’s almost 50, and she’s worked two jobs her whole life,” he says. “This is the first time in four years working that she’s not had to have two jobs, and she makes $400 to $600 more doing work here through the contract she’s on than anything else. It’s much more comfortable, and it gives her more time to do what she wants instead of working so hard.”
Ford admits that had he not found a position through Teleworks USA, he had plans to move away from his hometown again to find gainful employment.
“I had plans to move to London, Lexington, Richmond—metropolitan areas—which is the way it works. If you want to make a living, you’ve got to go out and find it,” Ford explains. “This place (Teleworks USA) is a saving grace to areas like this because you don’t have to move, you don’t have to leave your family. You can work from home, you can literally roll over in your PJs and sit on your computer.”
“This is a better alternative than having to uproot my life, my kid’s lives, everybody’s lives just for the sake of a job,” he adds.
And to anyone who is on the fence about giving Teleworks USA a try, Ford has one simple thing to tell them: “Just give it a shot. When opportunity knocks, you’re supposed to answer, and it’s knocking right here.”
To find out more about Teleworks USA and how you can get connected with a legitimate work-from-home job, log on to teleworksusa.com or contact your nearest Teleworks USA Hub today. As an initiative of EKCEP, Teleworks USA’s employment services are completely free of charge.
Since 2015, Teleworks USA Hubs or Digital Career Centers in Annville, Beattyville, Booneville, Harlan, Hazard, Hyden, Louisa, Manchester, and Pike County have helped bring jobs to more than 2,400 Eastern Kentuckians, and those positions carry an estimated $54.9 million in economic impact in new annual wages to teleworkers across the Eastern Kentucky Coalfields.