Jeff Whitehead, executive director of Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program (EKCEP) in Hazard, has been named the recipient of the highest service award given to an individual by one of the region’s 16 colleges in the Kentucky Community and Technical College System (KCTCS).
Dr. W. Bruce Ayers, president of Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College (SKCTC), honored Whitehead with the President’s Service Award during the college’s fall/winter commencement, held Dec. 7 in the Godbey Appalachian Center on the SKCTC Cumberland Campus.
The honor is the highest award offered by the college and is given to those who work tirelessly to make the region and its people successes.
Whitehead is executive director of EKCEP and its Local Workforce Investment Board (WIB), which provide workforce and employer services to 23 rural Appalachian counties in Eastern Kentucky. Whitehead has led various aspects of operations at EKCEP for more than 22 years, including the last five as executive director.
In times of surging unemployment rates and shrinking budgets, Whitehead is working to ensure EKCEP becomes more relevant than ever to job seekers and employers across its service area by being nimble, creative, and responsive in its approach to delivering its array of services, which operate under the mission of “jobs for people … people for jobs.”
To build this relevance, Whitehead and EKCEP are embracing new partnerships and service strategies that better align workforce development with the needs of the region’s employers needs by addressing recognized skills gaps with targeted, customized training. By doing so, Whitehead believes workforce development can prove itself an invaluable catalyst toward local and regional economic development.
Under Whitehead’s leadership, EKCEP also established the Job Clubs of Eastern Kentucky support network as a way to rapidly help the unemployed in the region by placing them in direct contact with expert career advising. This strategy has proven time and again to make Job Club members far more successful at landing a job than job seekers who search alone.
Additionally, the organization has developed the award-winning Kentucky Teleworks service, which partners with companies around the globe to screen and provide them with employees for legitimate, well-paid, work-from-home job opportunities in fields such as customer support, IT, data entry, sales, and more.
“I have the privilege of working with a tremendous group of professionals and community leaders during a time when the workforce must respond to a great many challenges associated with a global economy, advancing technologies, an aging workforce, environmental concerns, debt, and tightening budgets,” Whitehead said.
“Despite these challenges, we continue to strive to bring prosperity to our region by helping develop the best-prepared workforce possible, and ensuring that Eastern Kentucky’s employers are not hindered by workforce shortages.”