HAZEL GREEN — If you travel for miles down a narrow gravel road deep into the woods of Wolfe County, you’ll find a beautiful house made from pines that fell during an ice storm. Nestled by a small pond, this cozy home and its nature and art-loving inhabitants, the Mussers, feel almost like a natural feature of the woods.
It’s an unlikely site for a high-tech revolution in employment opportunities, but that’s what it is. Janine Musser is in the vanguard of a group of eastern Kentuckians who are using the latest technology to work from home, thanks to Kentucky Teleworks and the job listings and assistance available on Kentuckyteleworks.com.
Without leaving home, Janine works for Ipsos, a global research and public opinion polling firm with offices in 67 countries. Ipsos tests products and advertising, explores market potential and market trends, studies audiences and their perceptions of various media, and measures public opinion trends worldwide. Janine spends part of her evenings in her home office, calling people and recording their opinions.
Janine said the opportunity provided by Kentucky Teleworks was “a real blessing” at a time when she and her husband needed it.
Janine and her husband, David, had spent more than two decades bringing art and music opportunities to children and others in the region through the Appalachian Heritage Alliance, an organization they are founders of. Although they continue to have a passion for art and for bringing art education to the mountains, when the economy took a turn for the worse and grant funding began to dry up money was scarce.
“There’s no money in the arts. We’re kind of desperate to find a way to keep paying our bills and still keep working in the arts,” said Janine, who served as director of the alliance.
Janine was looking for a job to “pay the bills” when she and her husband heard about Kentucky Teleworks at a forum in West Liberty led by Joshua Ball, Kentucky Teleworks manager. Kentucky Teleworks is a service of the Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program, (EKCEP), Inc., a Hazard-based workforce development program that has served the mountain region for over 40 years.
Joshua talked about the rapidly growing number of good jobs that workers can do from home using computers and described how Kentucky Teleworks locates leads for those jobs and provides career coaching that helps eastern Kentuckians improve their chances of being hired for those jobs. Janine was intrigued.
“I was surprised at the variety,” Janine said.
Janine got in touch with Josh, who got her a list of online jobs that are vetted and checked out by Teleworks staff. Janine said it made her feel more secure to know the jobs were being investigated by Kentucky Teleworks to make sure they are legitimate.
Janine chose to apply at Ipsos, so Teleworks connected her with career advisors at the Gateway Community Action Agency in West Liberty — an EKCEP partner — where she got help creating and fine-tuning her resume. The resume and other preparations helped her land the job and begin her polling careeer.
“Every night I talk to people and hear what they think and I love that,” Janine said.
Janine said her past experience with Appalachian Heritage Alliance and time spent as director of the Hazel Green Academy Lifelong Learning Center helped make her a good fit for a telework job.
“I learned to work alone and to be self-motivated,” she said, adding that she also learned to communicate with people from varying backgrounds.
Telework is an ideal solution for someone who lives in a remote location, Janine said. Traveling to a job would costly in time, gasoline, vehicle wear, and other expenses, making it difficult to find a position that would pay.
“We love working in the community. We love serving the community. And having this opportunity to work at home to just make a bit of money to continue to pay the bills enables us to continue to serve the community in the arts,” Janine said.
She encourages others to check out the opportunities available through Kentucky Teleworks.
“It’s worth a shot to see if there’s something that fits your lifestyle and experiences,” she said.
Janine laughs when talking about how she does a high tech job in what is almost a wilderness.
“Who would have thought out here in the woods that we would have that kind of technology? We’re grateful to Mountain Telephone for making the broadband available out here,” Janine said.
Broadband availability is increasing in Eastern Kentucky, making telework opportunities available even in places that might seem unlikely, Joshua said. The Mussers are a great example of how telework can work just about anywhere, he added.
“Because of advances in technology, work has become something you do, not necessarily someplace you go. The jobs we find for people pay well and are legitimate jobs that get our participants engaged in the global economy. Janine took advantage of the opportunities we showed her, and she is now enjoying the vast benefits of working from home,” Josh said.
Try out Kentucky Teleworks by visiting www.kentuckyteleworks.com. For more information about the program, contact Josh at (606) 435-8498 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Find Kentucky Teleworks on Facebook at www.facebook.com/kentuckyteleworks.