As he sets up his workstation, untangling his headset and booting up his computer for the day, Perry Countian Jason Brock looks at home.
Working for a company through an initiative like Teleworks USA is not necessarily new territory for Brock. With three previous telecommunications jobs under his belt, he says he knew what he was getting into, but never thought he would be able to do this kind of job from his home in his small, rural hometown.
After living in Lexington, Ky., for a number of years, Brock was forced to move back to Hazard, Ky., in 2014 after a family crisis required his attention.
“I had to get a job, but there was nothing, there was just nothing hiring,” he says as he sets his headset on his desk.
Two weeks into the job hunt Brock decided his best option would be to visit the local Kentucky Office of Employment and Training (OET) office to apply for unemployment insurance and see what kinds of opportunities were in the area that he was unaware of. It was at that office that he first heard of Teleworks USA.
An initiative of the Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program, Inc. (EKCEP), Teleworks USA identifies and develops legitimate remote-work, distance learning opportunities, and helps people prepare for and land these jobs through its website, teleworks.com. Teleworks USA also operates hubs in Annville, Beattyville, Booneville, Harlan, Hazard, and Pike County that offer workspace and workshop learning opportunities for teleworkers who may not have access to suitable internet speeds or computer equipment at home.
“They came and talked to us about Teleworks at an unemployment meeting, and that put the bug in my ear about that,” Brock explains. “I probably would have looked more around town for jobs, but the thing is there just wasn’t anything here paying a livable wage. There were some available jobs, but you couldn’t live on them.”
“I got on the Teleworks website, which is an excellent resource because there’s all kinds of jobs on there … All the jobs are real jobs, you’re not going to have to pay anything to start, it’s none of this contract business where you have to pay for your own training or you don’t get paid for training,” he adds, emphasizing his point with a wave of his hand.
Brock was hired for his first Teleworks job a few days later at Sykes Enterprise, working for a major cellular provider. However, after seven months of work, the contract was pulled from the company, and Brock was back to the grindstone looking for telework.
“I got employed with Kelly Services soon after, but there was a little bit of technical difficulty there,” Brock says, explaining that another position he applied for around the same time also fell through because he did not have the correct internet speeds at his home at the time to work for the company.
After another stint at Sykes for the 2015 holiday season, Brock found himself staring at another possibility of unemployment in January of 2016. Luckily, though, Kelly Services was hiring right at that time.
“I was like, this is serendipity, so I applied for it and got the job and here I am,” he says, laughing and raising his hands to gesture around him.
“Thank God for the hub,” Brock adds. “It’s been a huge lifesaver for me. It’s made it possible for me to keep my home and live near my family. It’s so important for this area.”
In the fall of 2016, Brock was finally able to transition to working from home after getting correct internet speeds for his work at his house. He says he knows his life would be completely different had he not heard about and stuck with Teleworks nearly three years ago.
“I would have had to move. I would have moved back to Lexington—not because I wanted to be there, but because that’s the closest place to go to earn a living wage,” he says, shaking his head. “I probably could have made it on $7 or $8 an hour, but it would have been a scrimp every month to make ends meet, and no extra to enjoy what makes life enjoyable—going to the movies, eating out, the little things.”
Since becoming a teleworker, Brock has been an advocate for Teleworks, especially in the Eastern Kentucky region.
“It’s going to be a lifesaver for a lot of people the more it gets out and the more people learn about it,” he says. “There’s nothing to lose—there’s not even gas money to lose because you can apply in your home. It’s quick. It’s easy.”
“Go for it,” he adds. “What have you got to lose?”