ReWork EKY Offers Assistance to Workers – Spectrum News 1 - Freelance Rack

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Monday, August 17, 2020

ReWork EKY Offers Assistance to Workers – Spectrum News 1

EASTERN KENTUCKY – Eastern Kentuckians and their spouses affected by layoffs due to the COVID-19 pandemic are now eligible to receive assistance through the ReWork EKY program that helps connect them with training or new job opportunities.

What You Need To Know

  • Program funded through $2.4 million grant
  • Aim is to help workers and spouses affected by COVID-19
  • Funds allow expansion of partnership with colleges
  • Training available as well as jobs

ReWork EKY is funded through a National Dislocated Worker Grant awarded to the Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet from the U.S. Department of Labor. A $2.4 million share of that grant will be administered in the region by the Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program Inc. (EKCEP). The grant will allow EKCEP and its partners to help dislocated workers and their spouses in its 23-county service area find new employment or retraining for a new career, with an emphasis on virtual career counseling, remote work, online training, and work-from-home jobs.

“This is a trying time for our region – not only are we facing staggering unemployment numbers, but we’re also having to rethink how we work to find our people employment,” said Jeff Whitehead, EKCEP executive director. “We have to reimagine, refocus, and reinvigorate Eastern Kentucky’s workforce and economy. With ReWork EKY, we’ll be able to assess our clients better remotely and help them, and our businesses find ways to make working from home possible for them.”

ReWork EKY partners include EKCEP, Teleworks USA, Shaping Our Appalachian Region (SOAR), and others. The program promotes virtual career and workforce services, training both workers and businesses on transitioning to remote work via our Teleworks USA initiative and EKCEP’s business services experts, and securing remote-work job placements for workers. The program will also deploy additional higher-skill, fully online training through existing partnerships with several higher-education providers in the region.

EKCEP has an agreement with the cybersecurity program at the University of the Cumberlands that began as a tool for junior and senior high school students. The new funding has allowed EKCEP to extend that program to those who qualify for ReWork EKY. 

“We pay for the courses that prepare the students for certification to work in the cybersecurity field,” said Karen Wright, EKCEP certified career counselor and ReWork EKY program facilitator. “We’re also working with other colleges. I just had a meeting last week with other colleges in the region to discuss the workforce training programs they have and how we can collaborate to find those programs our clients may be interested in, such as getting certified as an electrician or something like that. We are seeing what makes sense, what the demand and looking for folks interested in retraining opportunities. EKCEP works with many local businesses trying to find opportunities to get people re-engaged in the workforce either on a traditional basis or work from home. Whatever the circumstances are for the clients that we’re working with, though, we do it more on an individual basis. But again, ReWork EKY is designed for workers or their spouses that have been affected by COVID and have been laid off and are looking for opportunities.”

ReWork EKY is also working with local health departments and other agencies to identify and create paid, temporary humanitarian job opportunities for dislocated workers. 

“Some of the things that we’re doing right now is working on temporary humanitarian job placement,” Wright said. “What that means is we’re working with the community action agencies and health departments – a lot of health departments are losing staff – and offering opportunities for those that have been laid off as a result of COVID to do some temporary work, at least to generate some income and also get some experience because there may be people that want to work in these areas.”

These opportunities could involve jobs that will help these departments and agencies with pressing needs due to their growing COVID-19-related workloads, such as food and medication delivery and other duties as determined. Wright said the partnership with the community action agencies and health departments also benefits older Americans and people at high risk of contracting or have contracted COVID-19 by employing people to get them the essential items needed to stay at home. 

“We are working to create job opportunities for things like meal delivery and people going out shopping for them for those essential things they need,” she said. “It’s temporary, but it’s just to get those dislocated workers re-engaged and doing something that is gonna benefit the community and benefit them at the same time.”

Kentucky has seen historic unemployment numbers since March 2020, resulting from COVID-19 layoffs or furloughs. At least 36 percent of the state’s workforce has filed for unemployment so far, the highest such rate in the nation, according to data from Fitch Ratings

“There were some areas that weren’t seeing as much COVID-19 spread,” Wright said. “But working with our health departments, we’re getting reports that places that weren’t originally hit as hard are now getting hit harder. They’re seeing an increase in COVID cases, which causes them to have to do things a little differently.”

Kentucky’s April 2020 unemployment rate was 15.4 percent – compared to 14.7 percent for the nation – a more than 11 percent jump from 2019, according to the Kentucky Center for Statistics

“Eastern Kentucky has had a history of overcoming whatever hardship is thrown at us, and we think that now is no different,” Whitehead said. “ReWork EKY is the light we all need during these difficult times to find our way out. We will rethink, rebuild, and ReWork EKY in the coming months to get our region back to where we need to be.”

EKCEP, a nonprofit workforce development agency headquartered in Hazard, Kentucky, serves the citizens of 23 Appalachian coalfield counties. The agency provides a variety of workforce development services, administers the Hiring Our Miners Everyday (H.O.M.E.) program for dislocated coal miners and their spouses, and is the White House-designated lead organization for the federal TechHire designation for Eastern Kentucky.

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