Telework Job Opportunities, Training, Potential Economic Impact Touted at Teleworks USA’s Grand Opening of Harlan Teleworks Hub

More than seventy people—including local leaders, community members, and jobseekers—gathered in Harlan on Tuesday, May 10, to mark the grand opening of Teleworks USA’s newest Teleworks Hub.

Located just off U.S. 421 at 416 Skidmore Drive, the new Harlan Teleworks Hub features customer service, digital literacy, and tech support training, and includes fully equipped workstations to accommodate up to 30 teleworkers. Tuesday’s grand opening presented the Harlan community its first opportunity to see up close how the Hub works to train and connect jobseekers for legitimate telework jobs with employers across the nation.

“We’re all very excited to bring this Hub to Harlan County,” said Harlan Hub Manager April Leisge. “We know from our first two Hubs in Perry and Jackson County that the Hub model works to create new, legitimate jobs in local communities, and that’s our goal here, too, and we’re already off to a good start with our first training class underway.”

An initiative of the Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program, Inc. (EKCEP), Teleworks USA identifies and develops legitimate remote-work, distance learning opportunities, and helps to prepare people for the jobs by training them in customer service and digital literacy, working with them on creating résumés and developing superior interviewing skills, then applying for an obtaining legitimate work-from-home positions through its website, www.teleworksusa.com.

Graduates of Teleworks USA’s digital literacy classes receive four separate certifications, assistance with their résumés and interviewing skills, up-to-date tech training, as well as anything else needed to land a gainful work-from-home or work-from-Hub job with one of the many national companies that work with Teleworks USA. 

In Harlan, 12 prospective teleworkers quickly filled the open slots in that Hub’s first training class, and seven of them already have interviews set with telework employers. That number, coupled with the more than 250 jobs Teleworks USA’s other Hubs in Harlan, Beattyville, and Annville have helped produced in the past year, presents a positive outlook for Teleworks USA in Harlan County, said Michael Cornett, EKCEP’s director of agency expansion.

“I think the future of the Harlan Teleworks Hub is very, very bright, as evidenced by the fact that so many of our first trainees here already have job interviews set with telework employers after only a week of training,” Cornett said. “We have all confidence that this success is going to continue in Harlan based on the number of jobs our other Teleworks Hubs have brought to Eastern Kentucky, which have generated more than five million dollars in new wages being brought into the region from companies actually located outside the region.”

Harlan County Judge-Executive Dan Mosley and the Harlan County Fiscal Court provided integral support for the creation of the Teleworks Hub in Harlan, noted EKCEP Deputy Director Owen Grise, who first began discussions about the Harlan Teleworks Hub after Mosley and other officials expressed interest and showed support for the project.  

That local support includes an agreement that the county provides Hub space, all utilities, and a high-speed fiber internet connection for the Hub—which was provided through Eastern Telephone and Technologies of Pikeville and its partners in the East Kentucky Network. EKCEP and Teleworks USA staffs the Hub with a manager, and through a grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission, equipped the Hub with computers, cubicles, and other equipment.

“They were all very much behind the idea that new jobs could be brought to Harlan County, and should be brought to Harlan County, over the internet as the Teleworks USA model shows,” Grise said.

Like much of Eastern Kentucky, Harlan County hasn’t been immune to the coal industry downturn, Judge Mosley said, noting the effects have been both direct and indirect to the local economy. While laid off miners and their families have seen the direct effect, other workers in sectors including retail and small business have also felt the impact. For Mosley and the fiscal court, working with EKCEP to bring the Teleworks Hub to Harlan presented a possible step to help begin reversing the local trend of job loss.

“The fiscal court was really overwhelmed by EKCEP’s commitment to Harlan County to provide employment opportunities for our people through the Teleworks Hub,” Judge Mosley said. “We’d been to the one in Jackson County and looked at the investment that had been made by the Jackson County Fiscal Court and its Industrial Development Authority. It was at that point and time I realized what it could be here. With the proper facility, the proper personnel, and the training, this could be an absolute dream come true from an employment perspective for our people.”

The Harlan Teleworks Hub features 30 workstations ready for teleworkers who may not have the appropriate equipment or internet connections to work from home. With the first training class already underway, Leisge said a second full class has already registered and will begin in the coming weeks.

Seating for the training classes is limited, so interested jobseekers in Harlan and surrounding counties should make sure they contact April Leisge at aleisge@teleworksusa.com, or call her at 606-216-6883.

Click here to view a gallery of photos from Tuesday’s grand opening in Harlan.

EKCEP, a nonprofit workforce development agency headquartered in Hazard, Ky., serves 23 Appalachian coalfield counties. The agency provides an array of workforce development services and also administers the Hiring Our Miners Everyday (H.O.M.E.) program, which provides career services to laid-off miners and their spouses. Find out more at www.jobsight.org and www.facebook.com/ekcep.