After 17 years of working as a dozer operator for a surface mining company, Michael Lowe, like so many others in the region, was laid off from work and had to find a way to begin again.
“Mining is pretty much all I’ve ever done,” Lowe said. “But with the decline in the coal industry, I decided it was time to make a change. And I’ve always been interested in barbering.”
Lowe connected with Big Sandy Area Community Action Program Career Advisor Reva Kidd at the Office of Employment and Training in Prestonsburg. Kidd informed Lowe that as a laid-off coal miner, he was eligible to participate in the Hiring Our Miners Everyday Program (HOME).
The HOME program created by Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment and administered with the assistance of Big Sandy Area Community Action Program, assists former coal industry workers and their spouses to receive educational and workforce opportunities which can help them transition to new work.
Lowe, who has had a passion for barbering since he was a child, jumped at the chance to learn a new trade with the help of the HOME program. Lowe enrolled in classes at Ashland Community and Technical College and was on his way to a new trade.
While enrolled in classes, the HOME program helped Lowe pay for tuition costs and his barbering tool kit in addition to helping him stay enrolled with a monthly stipend to help pay for his travel costs to and from school. When his classes were finished, Lowe was even reimbursed for the fee required to take the Kentucky Barber Board test.
Lowe said that although transitioning to new work was time consuming, working with BSACAP Career Advisor Reva Kidd made it easier. “Once I got in school and the process was started, it just went along smoothly. Reva helped me so much and the program was really good,” Lowe said.
Lowe was even fortunate enough to find a job waiting for him after completing the program. Tommy Smith, owner of Good Fellas Barber Shop in Pikeville, called Ashland Community and Technical College looking to hire a graduate. He was connected with Lowe and the two are working in what they call “the best barber shop in eastern Kentucky.”
Lowe said he is enjoying his new work and fulfilling a childhood passion. “I like making people feel good about themselves, and it’s an honor to serve our customers,” he said.
Lowe offered encouragement to fellow former miners as well. “There are other things out there. There are programs and help available for miners. It is possible to get new work. Don’t get discouraged, just keep pushing forward in life.”
Hiring Our Miners Everyday assists laid-off coal industry workers and their spouses to receive on-the-job training, classroom training, basic academic skills, certification/licensing, skilled apprenticeships, and other services. HOME was created by Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program, Inc. (EKCEP) with a two-year National Emergency Grant from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration. The program is open to the residents and employers who meet the grant specifications.
Big Sandy Area Community Action Program is a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing a vast array of services, such as employment and training assistance, weatherization of homes, and area Head Start programs, in order to assist individuals and families in obtaining self-sufficiency. Through collaborative efforts of community and organizational partnerships, BSACAP seeks to improve the overall quality of life within the Floyd, Johnson, Martin, Magoffin, and Pike County communities. To learn more about BSACAP and their programs, visit www.bsacap.org or call the service office in your county.