WHITESBURG, Ky. (WYMT) - Thousands of miners have been laid off across the region in the past couple of years, but one Letcher County man is finding a new life above ground after 13 years of hard labor digging coal in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky.
Chris Sexton is the fire chief at the Sandlick Volunteer Fire Department. He used to work as a coal miner, but last year he lost his job.
"I always told myself, if I ever get laid off from the mining industry, I want to try something different," he said.
He enrolled in Hiring Our Miners Everyday, a job-retraining initiative offered through the Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program.
Officials with the U.S. Department of Labor recently announced more than $5 million for EKCEP and its home program to help more miners get the retraining they need for new jobs.
"It's going to allow us to expand our home initiative to serve a greater number of people, but it's also going to allow us to target that funding to serve specifically out of work coal miners," said Michael Cornett, director of Agency Expansion and Public Relations for the Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program.
Chris Sexton says he is using the H.O.M.E. program to become an emergency medical technician. He says the program has helped him make the most of a painful situation.
"If I can talk to one person that's laid off as a coal miner and wants to do, you know something different, I mean this program's the only way to go," Sexton said.
Sexton joins nearly 500 former coal miners taking advantage of the HOME program in Eastern Kentucky.
The H.O.M.E. program is not just for coal miners. The program is also available to miners' spouses. You can find more information at http://www.ekcep.org/ekcepworkforceindex.htm