Reprint from The Zanesville Times Recorder.
ZANESVILLE – In Muskingum and Coshocton counties, unemployed veterans and others who face barriers to employment might soon be able to earn a living from home.
The Pearl Interactive Network (Pearl) connects insurance companies in need of employees with employees who might have trouble finding work with a focus on veterans as well as people who are disabled or are geographically challenged.
Currently, Pearl employs more than 440 employees in 23 states but is looking to expand to Muskingum and Coshocton counties in the next year.
When that is set up, Pearl is expecting to hire 30 full-time employees right off the bat, gradually increasing to 100 in southeastern Ohio by the end of the year.
“My hope is that our model will crack the code in an area that has been resistant to jobs for years,” President and CEO Merry Korn said.
Once employed, they are provided with a laptop and are trained in entering data and answering calls remotely from their house.
For people with transportation concerns, medical conditions or other special needs, the ability to earn a good wage without leaving their homes is vital, said Paul Quinn, president of the National Alliance on Mental Illness Six County, who connected with Korn after hearing about the program.
“Having this particular virtual office is great for these people,” he said. “Now you’ve removed all those barriers for these people to be working and making a salary.”
Korn makes sure her hires are qualified for the jobs before they are placed, but many veterans in particular have already received training, making them perfect candidates.
“One thing that’s come through is that a lot of (veterans) have been trained by the military to have the tools,” Quinn said. “They can do the job, and they’re focused on achieving a specific task.”
Southeastern Ohio is the perfect place to expand, Korn said, with a ready workforce, widespread access to broadband and high rates of unemployment. Unemployment in Muskingum County is at 6.1 percent, whereas Coshocton County is at 5.9 percent.
Pearl’s hiring model is effective, Korn said. Whereas an average annual turnover rate in the the insurance industry is about 40 percent, the average Pearl hire moves on after about three years. That is due in part to the attempts to connect with their employees, even remotely, through online pizza parties, coffee hours, and Instagram.