james_stacey_warren_6_smallJust a little more than a year after being laid off from his factory job, James Stacey Warren has a new career and a possibility of being his own boss, thanks to an assist from Workforce Investment Act (WIA) training.  James says he and some of his coworkers at TruSeal in Barbourville knew well in advance that layoffs were coming that would probably take their jobs.

     “We knew it was inevitable,” he said.

     He also realized that the declining economy would offer few chances for him to find another job similar to the one he was losing.

     Losing his job in November of 2008 crystallized an idea that James had been forming for a while; he left TruSeal determined to get into a career where he would not be buffeted by forces beyond his control, one in which he would have portable skills that would allow him to earn a living regardless of a corporation’s ups and downs.

     “I wanted something where I didn’t have to depend on someone else,” he said.

     Having the drive and determination to take charge of his career and plot a path toward independence was one thing, but James soon discovered that getting there was going to require accepting some help. Fortunately he found support in his family, friends, church and a WIA program that helps workers who have been dislocated from their jobs. The WIA Dislocated Worker program is administered in 23 eastern Kentucky counties by the Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program, Inc. (EKCEP) and is provided locally by KCEOC Community Action Partnership.

      Acting on a suggestion from a friend, James checked out the Tri-State Institute of Hair Design in London and found it to be a good fit with his career objectives. He enrolled in the school and attended for several months on his own, but as his unemployment lengthened and the bills piled up he realized he needed some financial help to lessen the strain. He began to worry that he might even lose his home.  That’s when school officials told him about the WIA Dislocated Worker that provides financial support to help workers who have lost their jobs go back to school and retrain for new careers.

     James asked Rebecca Napier, a WIA career adviser at KCEOC, about the program’s benefits and learned that WIA could support his retraining by helping pay for his tuition, books, travel, meals while he attended school. Best of all, for James, WIA could even help with his housing expenses while he was retraining.

     “It helped tremendously,” James said, smiling. “There’s just so many ways they have helped me.”  James recently finished barber college and took a job at the Knox Plaza Barber Shop. On his way to his first day at the new job, he stopped by KCEOC and met with Rebecca to talk about his experience and enjoy the picture of his barber college graduating class which hangs on the bulletin board in her office. James said the WIA experience was so positive for him that he persuaded his wife Sonia to enroll in the program and now she is attending barber college. He hopes that they can run their own family business together one day.

    The help WIA provides is a “tremendous opportunity” to better oneself, James said. He added that throughout his WIA experience Rebecca was always there when he needed help with anything.

    James said he wishes more people in Knox County were aware of WIA services that can help workers who have lost their jobs, as well as adults and youth who want to train for a better job.  “It’s something a lot of people don’t know about, and it could help those people,” James said.

    Napier agreed, saying that KCEOC wants to help as many Knox Countians as possible achieve their goals. “I want them to know that this assistance is available. We’re here to help,” Napier said. KCEOC in Barbourville is an access point for the services of the JobSight network, a collaborative partnership of workforce and training agencies administered by EKCEP in 23 eastern Kentucky counties.