Friday, March 9, 2018

Teleworks USA Saves Morgan Countian Thomas Gilliam from Dead End Job, Helps Find Dream Job

“Once I figured up that it was going to take me 85 years to get another dollar on the hour, I decided that it was time for me to have a career change,” Thomas Gilliam explains as he sits at home in his native Morgan County.

After more than 16 years working as a support specialist in a school system’s IT department, Gilliam says he realized that although he had a good job, it wasn’t going anywhere.

“I was in a dead end job that I was never going to get promoted at, whose management was a couple of years younger than me with a lot less experience,” Gilliam says, frustration still clear in his voice.

Gilliam says he knew he could and wanted to do more than the job he had been at for nearly two decades, and decided in October 2017 to start looking for alternative employment in his field. He knew this would be a challenge, though, since he wanted to stay in his hometown where jobs in nearly every field are scarce.

Luckily, he says, he’d heard from friends and family about new opportunities at Gateway Community Action for work-from-home jobs through Teleworks USA.

Gateway Community Action provides Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) services in Menifee and Morgan counties, under contract with the Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program, Inc. (EKCEP). Those services include programs for adults, dislocated workers, and for in-school and out-of-school youth who may need assistance honing skills such as résumé building or networking with local employers.

Recently, Teleworks USA, an initiative of EKCEP, began offering assistance to jobseekers in Morgan County and the Gateway CAA region to find viable work-from-home jobs.

“I thought, I’ll go check it out because I’d heard they were working with a program that had some work-at-home positions, so I thought I’d try it out and see what’s going on, and what all they have, and the rest is history,” Gilliam says, adding that he didn’t know much about Teleworks USA before starting his job search.

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.

Gilliam made a call to the Gateway CAA and was enrolled in a workshop, along with a number of other people from his region. Beattyville Teleworks Hub Manager Tracie Spencer facilitated that workshop.

“I wouldn’t have been able to do this if it hadn’t have been for Tracie,” Gilliam admits.

During the workshop, Gilliam and the others filled out numerous applications for open positions for global and national teleworking companies.

“I did another application or two at home, and one of those happened to be for the job I have now through Kelly Connect,” he adds.

Only three weeks after initiating his job search with a call to Gateway, Gilliam had been hired by global customer service provider Kelly Connect working as a support representative for the largest technology and phone manufacturer in the world.

“I went through about three weeks of training and worked several months on the production floor,” Gilliam explains, adding that less than six months into the job he has recently received a promotion within the company. “Now, I’m in training again for my new promotion.”

Gilliam says he knows even without Teleworks USA, that once he realized he needed to pursue a new career he was bound and determined to do it.

“I would have had to move to another area, though. Jobs are too hard to find and usually you don’t find out about them until it’s too late,” he says. “Without Teleworks, I never would have been able to switch jobs and stay at home.”

Transitioning from a brick-and-mortar office job to a work-from-home position is a big change for anyone, but especially after nearly two decades in the field. Gilliam says that if he can do it, anyone can. It just takes determination and discipline.

“It’s been a little bit of a change. I think you have to be able to get in the mindset that you have to work from home by yourself—you’re not going to have anyone over top of you standing. You have to be your own management in a lot of ways,” Gilliam explains. “It is stressful, but nothing beats sitting in your own guest bedroom at your own desk looking out your window watching your cat play outside rather than being in an office or driving to work.”

Teleworks USA has helped Gilliam change his life, and he says he thinks the program is perfect for his hometown and the surrounding area as it gives people a chance to have gainful employment without necessarily having to invest anything extra into things like transportation and food.

“A lot of people don’t have cars or the money to afford the car insurance. This is a way for them to be able to pay their bills to live, to have a good job—a career—to do something that you hopefully would enjoy, but not have a huge gas bill and everything else to make it back and forth to work,” he says

Gilliam adds that anyone who might be interested in Teleworks USA needs to take the leap and look into it at the very least.

 “If you’re thinking about jumping off the cliff then you might as well try to fly,” he says. “If you’re stuck in a dead end job or if you’re looking for a good job that is challenging that you can move up in, I think this would be the way to go.”

 EKCEP, a nonprofit workforce development agency headquartered in Hazard, Ky., 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 and

After more than 16 years working as a support specialist in a school system’s IT department, Gilliam says he realized that although he had a good job, it wasn’t going anywhere.