Lawrence Countian Brittany Holbrook was stuck in a rut. After four years at an automotive plant—and what seemed like a lifetime of cycling from one job to the next with layoffs and missteps in between—she found herself at yet another turn in that cycle.
“I had gone through a period of sickness. I had gone to the doctor and I had doctor’s excuses and everything, but according to their points system they didn’t want to keep me there even though I was four years with them,” she explains as she sits at a desk in the Northeast Kentucky Career Center JobSight in Louisa. “That’s how those companies work; at-will employment and they can give you the boot.”
Used to this cycle of employment and job-hunting, Holbrook assumed she would bounce back from this misfortune just as quickly as she had in the past.
“I never usually am out of work for a long period of time,” Holbrook says, adding that when days turned to weeks and June 2018 turned to August, she and her husband began to feel the pressure.
Though she was receiving unemployment insurance benefits, Holbrook says her previous wages weren’t doing more than making ends meet as it was. With those already insufficient wages cut in half with her unemployment benefits, even within a two-income household, she knew she’d have to work harder to find a job and make sure her family would make it.
“I was on the struggle bus,” Holbrook admits, now able to smile through the past adversity.
Luckily, a friend of Holbrook’s who had worked at the automotive plant with her told her she may be able to find help at the JobSight in Louisa.
A partner in the Kentucky Career Center JobSight network of workforce centers, Northeast Kentucky Career Center JobSight 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.
“Thank God for my friend,” Holbrook says, laughing.
Within a few days, Holbrook decided she’d give it a shot and walked into the JobSight office. Expert Career Advisor JoAnn Chaffin met her and helped figure out what kinds of services would work well for her situation.
“She helped me with my résumé. We ran through some online tests. She did everything pretty much immediately and got the ball rolling,” Holbrook recalls. “I think she kind of picked up on my vibe of, ‘Help!’ I think I may as well have come in here with a 911 sign, like ‘Help me!’”
Chaffin walked Holbrook through the entire process and began laying out a multitude of options—whether she wanted to go to school or be retrained or immediately jump into another job. Holbrook says narrowed her preferred careers down to two things that seemed to be at opposite ends of the spectrum: a career in cosmetology or as a commercial driver.
“I wanted to be a nail tech or get my CDL (commercial driver’s license),” she says, doubling over with laughter. “But it was either go through the whole cosmetology (program), which I didn’t really want to do … or get my CDL. So, I’m like OK, I’m going to go get my Class A CDL.”
Holbrook started the five-week course at the Big Sandy Community and Technical College (BSCTC) at the beginning of September. Though she never pictured herself driving a semi-truck, Holbrook admits that she had enjoyed driving other sorts of vehicles at her previous jobs, from forklifts to box trucks. And when she finally got to step foot into a real semi instead of the simulations for her class, she fell in love.
“I thought it was awesome,” she says. “It was terrifying at first, but then I was like, oh my gosh, this is just too cool!”
The class seemed to fly by, and Holbrook says she enjoyed every minute of it. What she also enjoyed was the seemingly endless stream of employers that were knocking down her and her classmates’ doors to give them jobs.
“That’s the biggest thing when you get your Class A CDL, you do not have to wait long to find a job. Companies left and right will take you the next day. I probably could have gotten hired on before I finished the class,” Holbrook says.
After graduation in October, Holbrook says she took some time to research trucking companies because she was so new to the business that she knew nothing about the ones that were approaching her. Within a few weeks, she contacted her number one choice to accept their offer.
“Whenever I contacted Averitt Express it was actually the week before Thanksgiving. As soon as I contacted them, I was in orientation the very next week,” she says. “I went in fast, and that was awesome.”
Holbrook says she and her husband immediately felt the difference in her new job compared to the ones she had previously worked.
“Huge, huge pay difference. I made somewhere between double and triple what I used to make, and the benefits were way better,” Holbrook explains. “That’s the most money I’ve ever made in my life, and it was so comforting. Just in my first month’s income alone on the road, I was able to not only catch up our bills and our house, but actually pay them off in advance. Today my bills are still paid up in advance, so that was really helpful.”
Six months into her new profession, Holbrook got a call from her CDL instructor at BSCTC. Since graduation, she had been asked to come back into the class a few times, she says, to give testimonial about being a success and working in the field. Now, her instructor was asking her to come back in a more permanent capacity.
“I just couldn’t resist the opportunity to come back there and give people the chance to experience what I did on the road, and I absolutely loved it,” Holbrook says of her new position as co-instructor in the BSCTC CDL program, which she accepted over the summer.
Without that fateful trip to the NKCAA office, Holbrook says she likely would not have gotten out of her job-hunting cycle and into this new phase of her career and life.
“I think I would have been just hopping back and forth between factories and staying in that rut instead of trying to better myself,” she says. “This was something that really helped better me, and I’ve grown from this process, and I’m very thankful, very grateful for this.”
For more stories like these, check out www.jobsight.org.