A brochure rests among a stack of other pamphlets at the Kentucky Career Center JobSight workforce center in Inez, Ky. A photo of a coal miner is on the front, with the acronym “H.O.M.E.” and “Hiring Our Miners Everyday” floating above him in large white letters.
At first glance, Martin Countian Dustin Dials saw that brochure as not much more than a piece of glossy paper. But several months later, Dials credits his finding that brochure with making the difference between hardship and good fortune for him and his family.
It’s August 2015 and Dials is sitting at a table at that same Kentucky Career Center JobSight in Martin County. His reserved demeanor and tough exterior reflect 50- and 60-year-old images of Eastern Kentucky coal miners who risked life and limb daily to put food on their families’ tables. As a modern-day miner, Dials says he thought he’d found his calling.
He remembers how set he felt in his mining career path just a year earlier.
“I was at the top where I was at the mines,” he says. “I had everything, so it was pretty easy there for me. I thought I’d retire there.”
But just before Thanksgiving 2014, Dials’ employer, Alpha Natural Resources, issued massive layoffs — one of which landed in Dials’ hands.
Immediately after the layoff, Dials says he and some of his former coworkers made the trip to the local Kentucky Office of Employment and Training (OET) to sign up for Unemployment Insurance.
While there, Dials says he was assigned to Maci Roll, an expert career advisor with the Big Sandy Area Community Action Program (CAP), which provides workforce services under contract with Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program, Inc. (EKCEP).
“She really got things going for me,” he says, remembering the four months he spent working closely with Roll, trying to find an employer who would hire him.
“I didn’t go to college. When I graduated high school I went straight to coal mining,” he says, citing that as the reason the 67 jobs Roll helped him apply for never went further than the application process.
“I applied for railroad, equipment operator, any job within 100 miles of here, but if you don’t have any education, there’s nothing for a laid-off coal miner unless you go to school,” he adds.
About to run out of hope—and his unemployment benefits—Dials says he was desperate to find something that would stick. That’s when he noticed that H.O.M.E. brochure sitting at the front desk he passed nearly every day when he met with Roll.
“I just happened to see that brochure on the desk, so I grabbed it,” he remembers.
The H.O.M.E. (Hiring Our Miners Everyday) initiative is a service of EKCEP in conjunction with the Kentucky Career Center JobSight regional workforce network.
H.O.M.E. helps out-of-work miners and their spouses in 23 Eastern Kentucky counties discover skills, determine new career options, covers costs for them to enter classroom training, and helps place them into subsidized on-the-job training positions with area employers. The program is funded through $12.7 million in National Emergency Grant (NEG) funds from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration.
Dials told Roll that he wanted to see if the H.O.M.E. program could help him find employment. After Roll explained the options available to him, which included opportunities for different types of training, Dials didn’t hesitate in agreeing to take part in an eight-week electrical lineman training course offered through Hazard Community and Technical College (HCTC) in partnership with EKCEP and H.O.M.E.—though it was a job he never envisioned himself doing.
“Once I got into it, they helped me pay for my gas to get there and back. They bought all of my tools for me and paid my tuition,” Dials says of the assistance the H.O.M.E. program provided him.
Out of a class of 17 trainees, Dials remembers he was the first one to land a job after graduating June 26.
“The week that I graduated I got hired, and the next week I went to work,” he says.
Since starting his new career as a substation lineman with Vaughn Industries, Dials says much has changed in his life— and all for the better.
“I’m back at the bottom at another company, but I’m making more money now than I was making in the mines,” he says.
Dials has also taken it upon himself to push other former miners in the same position he was once in toward the benefits of seeing a career advisor and participating in the H.O.M.E. program.
“People that’s been laid off after me, I’ve been telling them they need to come down here and talk to Maci Roll because she really did everything for me,” he says. “I know she went above and beyond to do all she could do, and I believe she would do it for anyone else.”
And Dials says he knows exactly where he’d be today had never found that brochure at the Kentucky Career Center JobSight on that fateful day.
“I’d still be looking for a job with no unemployment, because, when benefits run out, that’s it,” he says.
“EKCEP really does help,” he continues. “I just appreciate everything EKCEP did for me and my family.”