Missouri has been one of the most active states in championing the importance of Certified Work Ready Communities (CWRC) since the status was first awarded by college testing and credentialing provider American College Testing (ACT) in 2013 — to Jasper County, Missouri. The Show Me State was one of four states selected in 2012 to participate in the CWRC initiative. The purpose is to align workforce training programs with the economic development needs of communities, matching the appropriate applicants to jobs based on skill level and giving businesses a more quantifiable workforce assessment tool with which to evaluate local labor pools.
Since March 2016, 10 new Missouri counties are Certified Work Ready Communities — Vernon, Barry, Chariton, Maries, Barton, Washington, Howell, Madison, Dunklin and Lawrence, bringing the number of fully certified counties to 34. Forty-four other counties in the state are actively seeking the certification. Does CWRC status really matter to employers?
“To stay competitive today and in the future requires talented and engaged employees who think like business owners and drive continuous improvement,” said Steve Miller, plant manager of Kingsford Manufacturing, on March 18th, when Maries County, south of Jefferson City, in south central Missouri, was certified. “Through the Missouri Career Center and the Work Keys testing program [for earning National Career Readiness Certificates], we’ve been able to find people with the right skills who can help us continue to be a successful operation, great place to work and a strong community partner.”
Many other supporters, such as Brewer Science, a company that develops and manufactures innovative materials, processes and equipment for the microelectronics and related industries, also consider the NCRC when hiring. More than 3,100 Missouri businesses recognize the ACT National Career Readiness Certificate in support of Work Ready Communities goals.
Investment in the Future
“Missouri was one of the inaugural states to engage in the ACT Work Ready Communities initiative,” confirms Debra Lyons, ACT’s senior director, Center for Workforce Advancement, noting the program is housed in the state economic development department. “They have dedicated and dynamic leadership that supports their initiative, and their economic development department provides communication tools and resources to counties.”
Companies looking for a central US location will find in Missouri a well-established workforce development ecosystem relative to states whose counties have not invested the time and resources in certifying Work Ready Communities to the same extent.
“The long-term benefit to Missouri is their community partnerships being built and sustained,” Lyons explains. “They have built an effective network of employers supporting this effort — currently leading the country in the number of employers recognizing or recommending the ACT National Career Readiness Certificate. By helping to leverage Work Ready Communities to help with employer retention efforts, they position themselves for business recruitment and expansion opportunities.”