Gina Sowders worked eight years for a water management company in Florida when she and over 250 workers were suddenly laid off. Having relatives in Bell County, Sowders and her family relocated and the Bell County Job Club proved to be the catalyst that got her back in the workforce.
“I was devastated when my job ended,” said Sowders. “I had built a career in natural resource management, which was my major in college. I had to start over.”
As Sowders searched for jobs, she saw an ad in the local newspaper about the Bell County Job Club and decided to attend a meeting. A job club is a small group of job seekers who meet weekly with local workforce professionals to improve their job searches.
The group members provide support for each other while networking, sharing job leads and learning techniques for improving their job searches from workforce professionals, local business people and other invited guests.
The combination of support, networking and job-search education makes job club members much more successful at finding a job than those who search alone.
“Job club clients are given the tools to help them stand out from other applicants,” said Pam Wilson, a career adviser with the Bell County Job Club. “We prepare our clients to land the job.”
The free job club is sponsored by the Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program Inc. (EKCEP), Bell-Whitely Community Action Agency and Kentucky Career Center (formerly Kentucky Office of Employment and Training).
During the weekly job club session, Sowders improved her resume and expanded her job search to include careers in criminal justice, which was her minor in college.
“Pam helped me prepare a portfolio and develop interview skills that made me speak to my audience,” said Sowders. “Videotaping a mock interview was an excellent tool for me. I saw firsthand what I needed to improve for real interviews.”
After being in the Bell County Job Club for nearly six months, Sowders landed a job as a correctional officer for the Bell County Forestry Camp. The minimum-security camp houses 300 male inmates who have four years or less before going before the parole board.
In her new job at the camp, Sowders works in operations, managing firearms and ammunition and monitoring inmate activities.
“The Bell County Job Club opened the door to a new career,” said Sowders. “I had been a certified rifle instructor for many years and participated in competition shooting, but I had not though of pursuing a job in this field until joining the job club.”
“We are pleased to have Gina join our staff,” said camp Warden Kathy Litteral. “She is professional, hardworking and a real team player.”
Sowders said she enjoys her new job and is looking forward to trying out for the camp’s firearms team.
“I also hope to have a positive impact on the behaviors of our inmates,” said Sowders. “They are given training opportunities here that will help them get jobs when their time is served and they go back into society. I encourage them to take advantage of all training.”
Sowders understands the importance of getting prepared for the job market. She credits Wilson for helping her land her job.
“Kudos to Pam and the Bell County Job Club,” said Sowders. “Pam provided the education and coaching I needed, and job club members shared classified ads and job leads each week. I received excellent support and would recommend the job club to anyone looking for work.”
To find out how to join the Bell County Job Club, call 606-337-3044.