To obtain a job can be one of the biggest challenges facing people of all ages.

There is a statewide program, with a center in Jackson County, whose mission is to help address this challenge.

SPOKES, an acronym for Strategic Planning in Occupational Knowledge for Employment and Success, was established statewide by West Virginia Adult Education under a contract with the West Virginia Department of Education, Office of Adult Education, and the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHR) in 2003.

The Jackson County SPOKES program has a proven track record in helping many people gain the skills necessary to obtain employment.

As a result of that success, Jackson County was chosen as the SPOKES Program of the Year for 2019-2020.

To be considered for the award, certain criteria must be met. The Jackson County program exceeded all those requirements. (see infobox)

“We’re very proud of our students’ success,” SPOKES instructor Emily Lilly said. “This program prepares people for the workforce. We teach real-life skills such as time and money management, along with problem-solving.”

The SPOKES program lasts 10 weeks. In the first four weeks, students create a portfolio, basic skill modules, and practice in-depth interview skills. In the second four weeks, they earn certifications, gain basic computer and technology skills, and improve problem-solving abilities. The final two weeks focus on intensive job search and career assessments.

“Our program is an option for those enrolled in West Virginia Works,” Lilly said. “Our clients have to treat this like any other job, keeping timesheets and being held accountable.”

Savanna Whited, a SPOKES assistant, graduated from the program and attests to its worth.

“Some people come into the program motivated to get ahead,” she said. “Some come because they feel stuck where they are. This program builds confidence and gives support. It changed my life.”

Because of the COVID-19 health crisis, the time period for the award consideration was July 2019 through March 2020, rather than June. Lilly says that COVID has affected how the program is currently being conducted.

“We’ve extended the time period for our students to complete the program,” she said. “The 10 weeks just wasn’t feasible with having to do the work from home.”

Lilly said that many of her students don’t have internet access, so the work had to be mailed to them.

“I do stay in touch with them to see how they’re doing and what’s going on in their lives,” Lilly said. “And some are reporting they are getting job interviews.”

The SPOKES program is located at 206 Stone Street, Ripley (DHHR building). For information, call 304-373-0313 Ext. 28 or email spokes.jackson@gmail.com.

Jackson County SPOKES Success

Students completing program 96 percent (60 percent*)

Students completing certificates: 57 (Some *)

Students entering post-secondary 12 percent (5 percent*)

Students obtaining employment 56 percent (30 percent*)

Success stories submitted: 78 percent (75 percent*)

*Requirement