The Harlan Fiscal Court approved an agreement with EKCEP (Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program) during a meeting on Tuesday that is aimed at bringing a Teleworks USA hub to Harlan in the near future.
According to Harlan County Judge-Executive Dan Mosley, a Teleworks USA hub is basically a workforce development center.
Mosley brought the subject up to the magistrates during Tuesday’s meeting, saying he was “very excited” about the project. He said discussions have been going on with EKCEP Deputy Director Owen Grise for several months.
“We started having a discussion in the spring of last year about what it would take to bring a Teleworks USA hub to Harlan County,” said Mosley. “They have one in Hazard, and they have one in Jackson County, which has been going about a year.”
Mosley said a grant was awarded to fund the hub, with the county being responsible for leasing a facility and paying the utilities associated with it.
“Essentially, what this will be is a workforce development center to train and retrain people…anybody and everybody who potentially may want to work from home,” Mosley explained. “This program will train 12 to 14 people at a time over a four-week period. Over that four week period, they’ll earn a couple of certificates. One being the national career readiness certification. Once they are trained through that four-week program, they will be lined up with a company to work with.”
Mosley said they would initially be able to work from the hub, which will be located at the old Data Futures building. They would then transition from the hub to working out of their homes.
“This is not a call center,” said Mosley. “A call center is a business that has a contract with one company, and when that company yanks the contract, all the employees go to the house. Teleworks USA has contacts with 700 companies, in this country and internationally.”
Mosley said he toured the facility in Jackson County.
“In Jackson County, they lost a sewing factory a couple years ago,” said Mosley. “Seamstresses…some of them with no computer experience at all, transitioned right into this and are working today as a result of it. It’s been going on 13 months in Jackson County, and 141 people are working as a result of this hub. It has injected $2.5 million of new wages into the economy. And that can happen here.”
Mosley said the grant has been awarded.
“If this court chooses to approve this agreement, this will be up and running probably within a month,” Mosley said. “We’re excited about it.”
Mosley said the wages for these jobs would start at approximately $20,000 per year.
“This is something that is an investment on this court’s part not only to create jobs in Harlan County, but also to prepare our citizens and our workforce for the upcoming digital blitz that we’re going to see as a result of the KentuckyWired Initiative.”
Grise confirmed the average wage for a person who successfully completes the program and becomes employed is approximately $20,000 per year.
According to Grise, the jobs are vetted before being placed on the Teleworks website for candidates to consider.
“That guarantees there are no scams involved,” Grise explained. “None of this fly-by-night piecework stuff that you hear about occasionally. These are all legitimate companies. And yes, we do have people placed with companies with very recognizable names.”
Grise said they program has placed workers with DirecTV, U-Haul and other well-known companies.
According to Grise, participants will be responsible for supplying their own computer and internet connection when they move out of the hub to begin work at home.
“We work hard to try to place them with the opportunities that are out there,” Grise said.
Grise explained Teleworks USA will not hire the participants, but will help to place them in jobs after they are trained. The training is free.
“Anyone that’s unemployed, anyone that’s underemployed, or anyone that’s looking to do something else is a candidate for this,” Mosley said.
Magistrate David Kennedy asked if they would provide someone who was already qualified with a list of companies to apply to.
“Absolutely,” Grise replied. “One of the big parts of the training is they register on a website, that means not only do they have access to those jobs we have vetted, and they can apply online through the site, but we also have some employers that can actually see their resume’ through the site.”
Kennedy asked if it would be possible for the county to pay the salary of an additional instructor so more candidates could be sent through the program at one time.
“That’s an excellent idea,” Grise said. “That’s one of the things we’d like to see re-evaluated at the end of 18 months.”
After some further discussion, the court approved the memorandum of agreement with EKCEP and also approved a two-year lease with JKJJ Properties for the facility to house Teleworks USA.
“This court’s made job creation our top priority,” Mosley said shortly after the meeting. “This demonstrates our commitment to that priority. We feel like job creation is ultimately the most important thing we can be involved in right now…this is just the first of things to come for job creation in Harlan County.”
Reach Joe P. Asher at 606-909-4132 or on Twitter @joe_hde