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Shelby economic development officials push for work-ready status

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Certification helps employees, county’s recruiting of businesses

By Lisa King

Shelby County is well on its way to becoming the fifth community in Kentucky to be designated a Work Ready Community.

What does this mean?

Only that the workforce in the community is more prepared than other communities, said Libby Adams, executive director of the Shelby County Industrial and Development Foundation.

What’s more, it’s a tremendous draw for companies that are looking for a place in which to locate, she said.

“Being a work-ready community tells people that our workforce here is well-qualified to serve the needs of any business that wants to locate here,” she said.

The Kentucky Workforce Investment Board in conjunction with the Education and Workforce Development Cabinet certifies counties as work ready based on the quality of their labor force.

Those counties that meet the criteria so far include Woodford, Daviess and Warren, with Russell close to being certified.

For a county to be certified, it must have a certain number of individuals who have attained a National Career Readiness Certificate.

Adams said anyone can apply to take the test to be certified, but certain groups are being targeted.

“It’s ideal for anyone who is unemployed or underemployed and we are also targeting high school seniors,” she said. “For example, if I was in the running for a job, along with another person, if I had a NCRC, it would let the employer know what my skills are and what my knowledge base is.”

Adams said that taking the test for this certification is also beneficial in that it lets an individual know what areas they may be weak in so they can brush up in those areas to be a work ready as possible.

Susan Wiley, principal of the Shelby County Area Technology Center, said students there have been taking the certification test for two years.

“All of our seniors took the work test this year and did very well,” she said. “This is an initiative that we are doing with our new accountability model for students to become career ready. It coincides with the county’s efforts to become work ready, so we are working together.”

Wiley said the test evaluates students in three areas: reading, math and locating information.

“It gives them a certificate based on a gold, silver or platinum level, and it tells that they are qualified for sixty-five percent of the jobs that are out there, with the silver certificate,” she said. “If they get a gold certificate, they are ready for eighty percent of the jobs that are available, everywhere across the board; it says that they have the aptitude and the capabilities to learn how to do those jobs.”

Wiley said that 145 of the center’s seniors took the test and 111 passed it, for 77 percent.

That figure to comparable to last year’s, she said.

Another criteria that a community must meet to be designated work ready is to promote cooperation among community members, such as college staff, secondary education personnel, economic development professionals, elected and appointed officials, employers, chamber of commerce, school boards and community organizations to work toward this common goal.

“We have pulled together a committee of forty people in the community to look at how we are going to accomplish this,” Adams said.