By Addie Jones, Media Intern - Harrison Regional Chamber of Commerce
The Harrison Regional Chamber of Commerce, in collaboration with the local school district and business community, is laying the groundwork for a stronger workforce and a clearer path to success in the job market through the promotion of the WorkKeys assessment, also known as the National Career Readiness Certificate (NCRC).
Developed by ACT Workforce Solutions, the WorkKeys assessments are set to transform the measurement of foundation skills essential for workplace success. Unlike conventional assessments focusing solely on reading and writing, WorkKeys stands out by evaluating a comprehensive range of both hard and soft skills that hold significance across various professions and industries.
The key categories assessed are applied math, graphic literacy, workplace documents, applied technology, business writing and workplace observation, talent and fit, ensuring a holistic measure of an individual’s capabilities.
Susan Gilley, the Executive Director in charge of Federal Programs and Instructional Technology at Harrison School District, highlighted the significance of the WorkKeys/NCRC program and explained how the Division of Workforce Services is pushing students to take the exam as a reference point for their position in the job market.
“These assessments provide a broad perspective on what individuals can offer in the workplace,” Gilley said. “This means students and workers will be more capable in a wider range of job positions.”
The NCRC serves as a portable and industry-recognized credential that certifies essential cognitive skills necessary for workplace success. It validates problem-solving, critical thinking, mathematical reasoning and more. The certificate is divided into four levels: platinum, gold, silver and bronze, each indicating various degrees of proficiency and employability.
“Platinum means that 99% of the jobs you apply for, you’re probably going to be the perfect employee,” Gilley said. “Gold is about 90%, silver is about 65% and it’s a smaller percentage for bronze. It doesn’t mean that you can’t do better as you move forward and take it later.”
One of the distinctive aspects of the NCRC lies in its comprehensive evaluation of real-world abilities that significantly impact job performance. Whether it’s a blue-collar profession or a high-tech industry, the NCRC’s credibility holds immense value, reassuring employers of the candidate’s competency and readiness to contribute meaningfully to the workforce.
The WorkKeys assessments are web-based, offered in both English and Spanish, and each test takes merely one hour to complete. Valuable for all demographics, these assessments equip individuals, including students, with valuable insights into their strengths and areas for improvement, empowering them to take charge of their career trajectory.
In addition to three guidance counselors, Harrison High School will have two career coaches this year, following the addition of one career coach during the 2022-23 school year. These coaches hope they will be able to share with both students and businesses what WorkKeys could mean for their future.
“We’re excited about how it can expand opportunities for students,” Gilley said. “Some students might score lower in one area but higher in other areas. The counselors might talk to students based on what they did best in relation to job positions.”
The school also hopes to ignite the career conversation at lower grade levels, allowing students to explore their interests and passions early on and make informed decisions about their future or explore diverse pathways.
Some local businesses have also shown interest in the program, recognizing the potential benefits it offers. Employers could possibly encourage their employees to take the WorkKeys assessment to gain a deeper understanding of their workforce’s skill set. By identifying individual strengths and weaknesses, businesses can optimize their human resources to create a thriving and competent workforce.
The Chamber plans to disseminate information about WorkKeys through quick fact sheets and the endorsement of career coaches while also sharing the message at career fairs or lunches of opportunity.
Through collaboration between the business community, educational institutions and workforce services, Harrison stands poised to cultivate a highly skilled and competitive workforce for a brighter future. The WorkKeys assessment represents not just a test but a gateway and game-changer for job seekers, businesses and the region's overall economic growth.
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