Jo Ann Corum, community development director for Cumberland Valley Resource Conservation & Development, goes to work every day at her office housed within the Clay County Soil and Conservation District in Manchester. She greets the office’s secretary, Brenda Chastain, with a warm smile and asks what’s on tap for the day in the office they share.
A combined workspace, though, is not the only thing these two co-workers have in common. Through ongoing engagement from career advisers with the Daniel Boone Community Action Agency and lasting connections made by both Corum and Chastain after participating in their local Job Club, the two were able to land strong employment opportunities in an area where job searches aren’t always easy.
“In 2009, I worked for the Lexington Herald-Leader; I had been there three years,” Corum says. “When newspapers went down, I was laid off in October 2009.”
Corum signed up for unemployment services with the Kentucky Office of Employment and Training (OET) in Lexington and started the search for a new job. Four months later, she moved back home to Manchester after she found out her fight to find employment was being eclipsed by a fight for her life — she had been diagnosed with cancer.
“It’s kind of hard to get hired when you have no hair and you’re taking chemo,” Corum laughs now about her experience in reaching out to Daniel Boone CAA at that time in her life. “They were really helpful.”
A Job Club is a small group of jobseekers that meets to share leads and networking opportunities, and develop skills such as interviewing and résumé building. EKCEP and its Kentucky Career Center JobSight workforce network, in collaboration with Community Action Partnership and the Kentucky OET, sponsor the program.
Corum explains that she had never heard of Job Club before, and just happened to find an advertisement for it in her local newspaper.
“When I went to the first meeting I was really happy with it, impressed with it,” Corum says.
Job Club offered her and her group members help with résumés, interviews, and what steps to take to make sure they’d get noticed by employers they’d be approaching, she says.
Through Job Club, Corum has found employment through Teleworks USA by STARTEK and General Dynamics.
Corum says she decided it was time to start looking again for a career more geared toward her degree field.
With a little luck and some enhanced networking skills, Corum was able to land her current job as community development director at the Cumberland Valley RC&D, a natural resources conservation and protection organization.
“Job Club teaches you about networking, about making the most out of opportunities when you meet people,” she says.
Not long after taking her new position, Corum found herself on the other end of the spectrum of the clients Job Club serves — the employer side.
“Our secretary of eight years had decided, because of health reasons that she needed to leave her position, which left us without anyone.”
An ad in the local newspaper ran for two weeks, with little to no response, Corum admits.
“Then, it hit me all of a sudden that, hey, I should contact the JobSight and the Job Club because they probably have people that are looking for a position like this,” she says.
And Job Club was able to deliver less than two weeks later.
Chastain, who is now the first to greet all those who come through the Clay County Soil and Conservation District office, sits behind her desk in the office lobby.
Chastain had never participated in a Job Club before this year, she says, adding that she is very happy that she finally did.
“They care about you individually. You’re not just someone coming through,” Chastain, who was officially hired in May, says. “They don’t just try to put you just anywhere. They try to find what’s good for you, where you can grow, and where you can be there a long time.”
“I’m just glad there was a program there to help,” she adds.
Now, after a long road to get to their positions today, Corum and Chastain look back and praise Job Club for everything it was able to do for them and for everything it can still do for many others.
EKCEP, a nonprofit workforce development agency headquartered in Hazard, 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.ekcep.org www.jobsight.org and www.facebook.com/ekcep.