BOONEVILLE, KY. – Owsley Countian April Smith was taught early in life the value of having a good education.
“I grew up with a single mom who raised me and my two brothers. She’s just a minimum wage worker—she got her GED and she’s a smart lady and everything, but without a college education, you can’t really get many jobs around in this area,” Smith explains.
Smith worked through high school to ensure she would be able to make it to college after graduation, remembering that valuable end goal. However, things didn’t fall into place quite as neatly as she had been led to believe they would.
Sitting at a table in the Booneville Teleworks USA Hub, Smith’s positive attitude radiates as she recalls her struggles as she prepared to graduate back in December 2018 from Hazard Community & Technical College (HCTC) with a degree in substance abuse recovery coaching.
“I looked everywhere around here for a job (in that field),” Smith says. “I looked in McKee and Hazard—I had lots of listings in Hazard. My teachers and professors all recommended Hazard, but that’s way too far away. That’s an hour and a half drive, and I couldn’t really afford that.”
With the countdown on to find gainful employment after graduation, Smith was faced with the hard choice of either moving out of her hometown for work or taking a lower-paying job not in her field in order to stay at home.
Luckily, Smith remembered a class field trip she had taken in high school to a teleworking facility in London, Ky. This had been her first experience with telecommuting, and quickly thereafter she had another memorable run-in with teleworking—when the Booneville Teleworks Hub opened in 2017.
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.
“I decided to become a teleworker probably before I even finished college because I realized I’m not going to find any jobs in the surrounding area immediately,” Smith says. “I would have to move to get a job in what I had graduated in.”
“I remembered that Teleworks USA would be a good opportunity to still work and be able to stay here in Booneville,” she adds.
Smith began researching the Teleworks USA initiative to ensure that it was a legitimate job choice. Reading success stories of clients who had turned to Teleworks for employment was what really helped make up her mind to try it out for herself.
“I came in and talked to (Booneville Teleworks Hub Manager) Carla (Gabbard), and she helped me with filling out applications with different places through the Teleperformance website,” she recalls. “And then after that, the rest is history!”
Smith applied for as many positions as she could that day, and before the day was over she was receiving good news.
“I got an email back that night, and then they called me the next day,” she says, beaming. “I passed my interviews, got myself a job, and am getting paid $10.10 an hour—that’s pretty good to start off. And training is paid, so that’s great!”
Smith started working with through Teleperformance at the end of February 2019 and has since moved out of training. So far, she says the job is wonderful.
“I think it’s great! I get to talk to people, and I get to help them find doctors,” she explains of her job duties as a customer service agent. “I help people get what they need so they can get the healthcare that they need.”
Looking back, Smith credits Teleworks USA with allowing her to live in her hometown and still make a living wage—something she could not have done otherwise.
“I would probably have had to move out of the county immediately after I graduated,” she says. “People don’t really stay around here after they graduate, and that’s most likely because they don’t have jobs in the area for people.”
Smith says she is so thankful Teleworks USA is now there for her and the people of her county.
“I’d tell everyone to come and check (Teleworks USA) out, and if it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out—what have you got to lose? But I’d really recommend it,” she says.
To find out more about Teleworks USA and how you can get connected with a legitimate work-from-home job, visit the Teleworks USA website 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 in Hazard, Hyden, Annville, Beattyville, Booneville, Harlan, Louisa, and Pike County have helped bring jobs to more than 2,100 Eastern Kentuckians, and those positions carry an estimated $47 million in economic impact in new annual wages to teleworkers across the Eastern Kentucky Coalfields.
EKCEP, a Grassroots Partner of SOAR is a nonprofit workforce development agency headquartered in Hazard, Ky. They serve 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 their organization by visiting their Facebook or website.