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The Keys for a Community Ready to Work!

Posted by Christina on May 22nd, 2019

Employers in Eau Claire County experienced an average unemployment rate of 2.6% over 2018, slightly below both Wisconsin’s unemployment rate of 3% and the national employment rate of 3.9%. Projections from the DWD state that over the next decade employment across all industry sectors is expected to grow about 6%, resulting in an additional need of 14,000 individuals throughout. The latest Workforce Demand Survey shows that a majority of local businesses are struggling to fill at least one position, with almost half of all businesses having two or more positions.

This indicates a need that could be, at least, partially filled with incentives that streamline the ability for both job seekers and employers to effectively communicate skills needed within a specific position. Eau Claire being positioned as a Work Ready Community could provide the needed tools to achieve this for local employers by building on a currently existing infrastructure that was developed by an established national nonprofit and has already shown success in communities nation-wide.

What is a Work Ready Community?

A Work Ready Community (WRC) is considered a county (or region) where the supply and demand of workforce skills are in sync. Workforce skills are measured through nationally recognized WorkKeys. These WorkKeys are measured and certified through the ACT WorkKeys National Career Readiness Certificate (WorkKeys NCRC) that provides documentation on the essential work skills an individual needs to be successful in all industries and occupation.

“The “Work Ready” community initiative ties together solutions for our local workforce shortage by fitting the right person to the right job and identifies critical career-readiness skills for students seeking to move into the workplace or acquire technical skills.” explains Pam Owen, Academic Initiatives Outreach Coordinator at the Chippewa Valley Technical College.

Nearly 75% of businesses utilize job profiling – the process of analyzing the skills needed to successfully complete a job – in their recruiting and hiring practices. Using skill analysis employers can identify skills and skill levels that current and prospective employees need in order to be successful in the position. Additionally, trainers will be able to identify strengths and set appropriate training goals for employees.

ACT is a nonprofit organization with a track record of producing assessments and credentials. As part of their mission to help people achieve education and workplace success, they have developed a set of skills that are utilized by employers across all industry sectors and positions. These set of skills are called WorkKeys.

About the WorkKeys and Core Abilities

Every year, all juniors in the State of Wisconsin take the WorkKeys “career-readiness” assessment in their high-school. Many of these students earn impressive certificates detailing specific workplace skillsets. Individuals currently or are looking to enter the job market will be able to compare their skill levels to those that are needed for the position, enabling them to make suitable job and training decisions.

WorkKeys credential is used across all sectors of the economy and verifies the following cognitive skills:

  • Problem solving
  • Critical thinking
  • Reading and using work-related text
  • Applying information from workplace documents to solve problems
  • Setting up and performing work-related math calculations

In addition to all high school students utilizing WorkKeys NCRC, the Eau Claire County Work Ready Community team (a local team of volunteers from private sector, public organizations, and educational institutions) has built on these WorkKeys and added additional verification and training including Core Abilities/Success Skills to further the capability for local employers to quickly connect with a workforce that has the necessary skills for a position. Students, both college and high school, can earn verification of these sought-after skills in the following categories:

  • Models Integrity
  • Thinks Critically
  • Communicates Effectively
  • Values Diversity
  • Builds Relationships
  • Practices Personal Responsibility

When employers request or require the WorkKeys and/or Core Abilities, they are easily tapping into a local, qualified labor pool that is primed to fill their positions. Skilled shortages are an expensive and time-wasting barrier for employers. Utilizing the tools that are provided to a Work Ready Community, employers are able to determine which individuals are best fit for highly skilled positions, and which workers are the top candidates to receive job-specific training!

Photo Credit: Chippewa Valley Technical College

What would it mean for Eau Claire to be a Work Ready Community?

States, regions and counties that are established as Work Ready Communities offered a suite of ACT WorkKeys assessments and the ACT WorkKeys NCRC that measure an individual’s foundational workplace skills such as math, reading, information and locating skills required for a majority of today’s jobs. These WorkKeys credentials do not replace, but rather complement such traditional credentials as high school diplomas, community college degrees, and certificates of technical proficiency – confirming an individual’s competence in a specific set of workplace skills.

Pam Owen, Academic Initiatives Outreach Coordinator at the Chippewa Valley Technical College, explains how the assessment helps job seekers, employers, and the overall economy.

“The assessment identifies a student’s skills in the areas of applied math, workplace documents, and graphic literacy, all based on the real-world, working environment. It allows the employer an in-depth look at the applicant’s or current employee’s skills. Lastly, the Work Ready initiative identifies Eau Claire County as a county that is “work ready” by providing data that validates the workforce of the region.”

By supporting this initiative, you are encouraging access to a more qualified workforce ready to fill positions from local employers. Other communities who have embraced the use of WorkKeys include Johnsonville Sausage who has experienced improved retention of new hires and reported that they have a better understanding of new team members’ skills. Employers who have leveraged the components of a Work Ready Community have enjoyed improved retention of their employees, a shorter hiring time, and a reduced training time and cost.

How can you support our community?

ACT has developed a methodology for establishing county goals proportionate to a community’s size. Once ‘certified’, the county can continue to maintain their status keeping the flow of supply and demand in sync. Employers can help their communities build a stronger workforce with the right foundational skill set by supporting their states and counties by learning how the ACT WorkKeys NCRC can help them find the right employee with the right skill set.

“Eau Claire, and the Chippewa Valley Region as a whole, has already taken a lot of great strides in tackling the current and emerging demands being placed on our workforce,” explains Luke Hanson, Executive Director of the Eau Claire Area EDC. “The ACT Work Ready Communities initiative gives our local employers more leverage to solve some of the concerns that they have been expressing to us over the past few years.”

Employers are easily able to promote successful state and county Work Ready Communities by simply recognizing the ACT WorkKeys National Career Readiness Certificate. If your business is willing to recognize the ACT WorkKeys National Career Readiness certificate in your county’s effort to become a Work Ready Community, please indicate your support on this page.
Signing the Employer Listing Registration form is not an obligation in any way, but rather is a simple way that we are able to demonstrate that our community’s employers embrace common workforce skill requirements.

Click here to fill out a quick, online form to help Eau Claire become a certified Work Ready Community!

Your participation in ACT Work Ready Communities [ACT WRC] benefits not just your company, but your entire community. ACT WRC is helping job seekers in your area understand what skills employers like you are looking for, and it helps local educators prepare students for success. And — they need you as an employer to value their earning an ACT WorkKeys NCRC.
More about the ACT WorkKeys National Career Readiness Certificate.

The ACT® WorkKeys® National Career Readiness Certificate® (ACT® WorkKeys® NCRC®) is an assessment-based credential issued at four levels. The NCRC measures and certifies the essential work skills needed for success in jobs across industries and occupations. When you require or recommend the WorkKeys NCRC from your applicants, you’ll tap into the most qualified labor pool in your area. Click here to learn more about WorkKeys NCRC

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