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Shelby one of 7 counties designated work force ready

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By Lisa King

Shelby County is now one of only seven counties across the state that has been certified as Kentucky Work Ready Communities.

Gov. Steve Beshear made the announcement Thursday that Shelby and Madison counties have joined Boyle, Daviess, Warren, Woodford and Henderson in achieving the designation since certification began in February 2012.

Shelby County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Shelley Goodwin said that achieving the designation reflects a deep level of commitment to workforce readiness within the county.

“The certification is evidence that as a community, we recognize and value the importance of having a prepared workforce, and that we are continually working to promote a well-educated, well-prepared workforce, now and for the future,” she said.

Beshear said the certification, given by the Kentucky Workforce Investment Board and the Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet, assures employers that a local workforce has the talent and skills necessary to staff existing jobs and to master the innovative technologies new jobs will require.

“This designation shows employers that a county has completed rigorous requirements and is a cut above other communities nationally when it comes to developing a skilled labor force,” he said. “I encourage all Kentucky communities to strive for the Kentucky Work Ready Communities designation.”

To become certified, a county must gather local support and commitment and apply for the Work Ready Community designation, as well as meet criteria in six areas, including high school graduation rate, National Career Readiness Certificate holders, demonstrated community commitment, educational attainment, soft-skills development and digital literacy.

Goodwin said that Shelby’s certification is the culmination of an enormous team effort within the community.

“It has been a little over a two-year process for us; we started the application process in 2011, and it took a lot of hard work by a number of people and organizations and groups within the community to make it happen,” she said. “I’m very proud of everyone who has worked very hard to achieve it.”

The chamber worked together with the Shelby County Industrial and Development Foundation, Goodwin said.

“The chamber and the industrial foundation worked together to spearhead this project,” she said, adding that Shelbyville Mayor Tom Hardesty was also instrumental in the effort, as well as Shelby County Schools Superintendent James Neihof, who serves on KWIB.

Libby Adams, executive director of the Shelby County Industrial and Development Foundation, said she was very excited when she learned of the accreditation.

“She [Goodwin] and I worked very hard on this for over two years,” she said. “It shows a great collaborative effort, and it’s just a wonderful thing for our community – this is a really big deal!”­

Neihof said that although much of the credit should go to Goodwin and Adams, he agrees that the project was a team effort.­

“The more we learned about that designation, the more we realized how important it is and I think the whole ready work initiative is an opportunity for us to take on community stewardship thinking,” he said. “The beauty of it that everybody participates.”

Ed Holmes, chair of KWIB, said the program is gaining momentum.

“In addition to the 30 counties that have achieved certification as Work Ready or Work Ready in Progress, another 48 are working on applications,” he said.

Crystal Gibson, chair of the Kentucky Work Ready Communities Review Panel and vice president of Public Affairs at Citigroup, said, “Working toward the Kentucky Work Ready Communities status gives communities an economic advantage when companies are looking for a place to locate, and it shows established Kentucky businesses that they will continue to have a strong pipeline of skilled workers in the future.”

To achieve the designation, a county must present a viable plan to meet all of the criteria within three years. The designation shows that a community is making strides and working with its business, education, workforce and economic development leaders to set and meet common goals that will give the county an economic edge.

For more information about the Kentucky Work Ready Communities program, go to http://workready.ky.gov.