Work Ready Initiative / WorkKeys

We are hearing more and more that employers are having difficulties finding workers who have the necessary skills. When you realize the numbers of employees and how many companies are competing for the same workers, you can begin to understand the problem. Having new companies come into the area only intensifies the situation. When companies are looking to relocate, they want to know that there are suitable employees in the area. At the Workforce Development event that was given by GSA Business in December, Mike Edmonds of ZF Transmissions and Mike McCormick of Bosch Rexroth both discussed the difficulties they are having in getting the employees that are needed for their plants. Greenville has been able to use their capable and skilled local workforce as a selling point to get new businesses to come to the area and existing companies to build.

One of the tools that South Carolina is using to help find qualified employees is WorkKeys from ACT. ACT WorkKeys is a job skills assessment system that helps employers select, hire, train, develop, and retain a high-performance workforce. ACT’s website posts that over 1 million people have earned their National Career Readiness Credential (CRC).

More companies in South Carolina are beginning to require this this certification. The workreadysc website list 91 companies who require this for people applying for their position. Many of these are manufacturing but it is used in other industries as well, the Greenville Schools system requires it for some of their positions.

In November, Governor Nikki Haley announced the establishment of the South Carolina Work Ready Communities initiative. We will be one of four states who are participating in this pilot program. The Initiative will qualify counties based upon high school graduation rates, soft skills development, business support and the number of CRC holders. This will make it more competitive between counties and will allow agencies and companies to use this information as they decide where they are going to invest in development. It will also give us a great marketing tool to lure companies as they decide where to locate new or exiting plants and offices.

WorkKeys have assessments in nine areas; Applied Mathematics, Reading for Information, Locating Information, Applied Technology, Business Writing, Listening, Writing, Teamwork and Observation. The Career Readiness Credential shows the results from three assessments: Applied Mathematics, Reading for Information and Locating information. WorkKeys shows your scores by putting it on levels from 3 to 7; a 3 is Bronze, a 4 is Silver and a 5 is Gold. Your certificate will be based on your LOWEST score, which can be maddening if you get 2 fives and a three (Bronze). Workreadysc allows you to compare your score to the requirements for your desired job.

Realize that WorkKeys, or anything else, is not standardized among all companies. Many companies want the Career Readiness Credential but others may want different assessments. But the CRC is growing in both numbers and reputation.

Upon completion of the 3 one hour assessments, you will get a certificate that you can keep and show to employers, as well as having it recorded on ACT’s website. I like the idea of taking these assessments so you can determine what your levels are. Especially if it has been a while since you have been in school, WorkKeys allows you to compare your abilities to other people in your position. You can then decide if you need to invest in additional training to strengthen the weak area. I have had many students who were worried about how they would score, just to make higher than they had expected.

When I took it, it had been many years since I had taken a meaningful test and just overcoming my nerves was an effort. I felt that my co-workers would be looking to see how I did. The assessments can be given on computer or on paper though it is more common for it to be done on computer. SCWorks in Greenville does theirs on computers, so it is important that you know how to manipulate the screens, but if you are reading this blog, it will not be an issue.

There are some ways to prepare for these assessments. Greenville Literacy offers classes for the CRC’s assessments and some of the others. The  ACT website has three actual questions for each level so you can get a grip of how the questions read. Michigan has a great PDF that prepares you for the test by giving you samples for each level and discusses each of them whether right or wrong.

The workforce is becoming more demanding and competitive. There are more people coming into the area, employers can search globally for the desired skill sets, and new technologies and processes are being discovered every day. Although there are more jobs coming into the area, current positions are requiring us to be able to do more and to do it more quickly. As you look to get into the workforce, or to take that next step up, it is important for you to make yourself to be as qualified as possible. Knowing your strengths, and weaknesses, can go a long way in helping you reach the position you have desired