Friday, July 6, 2018

Teleworks USA Connects Former Coal Worker Nicholas Fleming with New Career at KellyConnect

Pike Countian Nicholas Fleming appears to be an unassuming man as he sits quietly at a computer station at the Pike County Teleworks Hub. When he begins to speak about the program that has helped he and his family more than anything in the last year, his passion for Teleworks USA’s mission is unmistakable.

“I was excited to get started with it, especially because you hear people talking about teleworking jobs and you hear people talking about Amazon and other companies—but you never get anybody that really tells you how to do it. It’s almost like a unicorn,” he says with a laugh.

Teleworking wasn’t always on Fleming’s radar, though he had done a short stint at a local call center nearly two decades ago.

“I was actually working in the coal industry. I worked over in Mingo County, West Virginia, for Alpha Natural Resources,” he explains.

Fleming worked for years for the company as a purchasing agent, buying anything the company needed for jobs done in his division of the coalfields.

“It’s stressful when you’re dealing with that kind of money,” he adds, explaining that the stress of his job had taken a toll on his mental and physical wellbeing over the years.

Unfortunately for Fleming, that stress was only amplified when, in September 2012, he was part of a mass layoff of 1,200 employees of Alpha. With limited options for employment in his community, he turned to the Hiring Our Miners Everyday (H.O.M.E.) program but found he was ineligible due to his management-level position within the company. 

Fleming headed out into the bleak job market on his own.

“Around here, there’s not a lot of jobs open. So, I took a position with the state highway department, with the Kentucky Department of Transportation. I worked over at the main office in Pikeville just as a janitor, just cleaning the building and maintenance,” he says.

“I went from $100,000 a year to $17,000 a year overnight,” Fleming adds, shaking his head.

By the time 2015 rolled around, Fleming had changed careers again and was back to working as a purchasing agent for the Carl D. Perkins Job Corps Center, again handling a stressful position with the added bonus of a three-hour drive to and from work every day.

“I liked that job, but it was a lot of high stress,” Fleming explains, but concedes that he didn’t have any better options at the time for him and his family to get by.

While he was taking his lunch by a lake near his office in February 2017, Fleming says he didn’t know what he could do next to better take care of his wellbeing while also providing for his family. Luckily he picked his phone up to do what many do to pass time—idly scroll through social media.

“I was looking at a friend of mine who had a Facebook post, and it was a flyer for Teleworks. It was for one of the job fairs coming up,” he says.

Teleworks USA identifies and develops legitimate remote-work job opportunities with multiple national and global companies. Teleworks USA’s team of eight expert Teleworks Hub Managers also helps prepare people for the jobs by upskilling them in customer service and technical support workshops, helping them craft strong résumés and hone their interviewing skills, and assisting them in applying for available remote-work positions they can work within their homes or one of eight Teleworks Hubs in the region.

Since its inception in 2012, Teleworks USA has opened Teleworks Hubs in Hazard, Hyden, Annville, Beattyville, Booneville, Harlan, Louisa, and Pike County. Those Hubs have helped bring jobs to more than 1,400 Eastern Kentuckians, and those positions carry an estimated $30 million in economic impact in new annual wages to teleworkers across the Eastern Kentucky Coalfields.

“I decided (to make a change) right there when I saw that,” he adds. “It may be nothing or it may lead to something, and it led to something.”

Fleming immediately messaged Pike County Hub Manager Billy Carrico through Facebook and asked him about Teleworks USA. Even though he couldn’t come to the Hub until after business hours, Carrico agreed to wait on Fleming to arrive.

“He said, ‘I don’t care about that. If you come up here, I’ll wait.’ And he waited for me,” Fleming says. “We sat down, and he helped me with a résumé, and he helped me as far as knowing how to get on there and do the applications.”

Carrico explained that if he didn’t get hired on to the first company he applied for, there were a multitude of other options out there for him—something that was very reassuring to Fleming after spending years basically taking what he could get from the job market.

Within days of applying, Fleming heard back from global telework company KellyConnect, and, after multiple interviews, found out he got the job by the end of March and started in April 2017.

Since starting his job just over a year ago, Fleming has been promoted from a base customer service specialist for a global leader in phone and community hardware and software to team lead of his own group of specialists.

“I’m making almost what I made in the coal industry now in just a year’s time,” he says, smiling. “I think it’s tremendous.”

Fleming says he thinks that the future for his area lies with telecommuting and with programs like Teleworks USA.

“We’re separated by mountains. We don’t have the roads that other people have, we don’t have a lot of the infrastructure—luckily our internet infrastructure is getting better, so that’s kind of opened up the world for us, but only through Teleworks or telecommuting,” Fleming says.

“We can’t draw in some of the larger companies, but if we can connect to them from here, it opens up the world to us,” he adds. “We’re not just hillbillies, I guess you’d say, we’re not just stuck in between two mountains. We’re open to the world, and we get a chance to show them what we can do.”

Fleming’s life now is completely different than it has been since before he heard about Teleworks USA. With no long work commutes, much less stress, and more time to spend with his family, he says he recommends looking into Teleworks to anyone who asks him about jobs in the area.

“Anytime I see someone who wants to do this kind of position, I say, the best way to do this is going and talking to Billy (Carrico),” Fleming says. “To have something like that around here is tremendous. I wish they had 10 buildings here for Teleworks! It’s that important to have here.”

EKCEP, a nonprofit workforce development agency headquartered in Hazard, Ky., serves the citizens of 23 Appalachian coalfield counties. The agency provides an array 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. Learn more about us at http://www.ekcep.org, http://www.jobsight.org and http://www.facebook.com/ekcep.

Pike Countian Nicholas Fleming appears to be an unassuming man as he sits quietly at a computer station at the Pike County Teleworks Hub. When he begins to speak about the program that has helped he and his family more than anything in the last year, his passion for Teleworks USA’s mission is unmistakable.

PIKEVILLE