Work Force Readiness Measure Is Supported

December 31, 2007
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GRAND RAPIDS — The West Michigan Strategic Alliance and WIRED West Michigan has expressed support for a decision by the Michigan Council for Labor & Economic Growth to develop an implementation plan for a statewide career readiness credential based on the ACT WorkKeys National Career Readiness Certificate.

According to a news release developed by ACT, the testing organization, NCRC WorkKeys assessments are recognized nationally as highly reliable indicators of foundational skills vital to the workplace. Skills measured by the tests include Reading for Information, Applied Mathematics and Locating Information. An individual may receive, based on testing success, a bronze, silver or gold certificate.

As a result of the CLEG recommendation, the Michigan Department of Labor & Economic Growth will form a workgroup comprising representatives from DLEG, the Michigan Department of Education, Michigan Works! agencies, community colleges and other stakeholders. The workgroup will explore the feasibility, including the cost, of statewide implementation of the National Career Readiness Certificate. The group also will address aligning the use of NCRC with the No Worker Left Behind initiative and programs currently being used by the WIRED regions, Department of Education, the Michigan Works! system and employers.

The workgroup will present its findings and recommendations to the Council for Labor & Economic Growth at its June 2008 meeting. At that time, the council will make a formal recommendation to Gov. Jennifer Granholm on whether Michigan should establish a statewide work readiness credential.

WIRED (Workforce Innovations in Regional Economic Development) West Michigan is an initiative of the West Michigan Strategic Alliance and is funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment & Training Administration. The $15 million grant “is working to help the region overcome many of its work force, education and economic challenges by providing the necessary funding to advance WIRED West Michigan's regional work force and economic development initiatives, known as Innovations.”

The WIRED West Michigan NCRC Innovation has been working to secure employers willing to utilize the NCRC as a qualification within their hiring processes. This effort has included securing commitments from major Michigan employers to not only use the certificate in hiring, but to also tie its testing to specific job descriptions within their respective organizations.

According to the news release, in West Michigan alone, results include:

  • 134 companies representing more than 33,000 employees are using NCRC testing.

  • 675 positions now require a NCRC for placement.

  • More than 12,000 tests have been administered and more than 10,000 NCRCs issued, resulting in a success ratio of nearly 87 percent.

"WIRED and WMSA believe, first and foremost, that talent drives growth. Given the many challenges we face in Michigan, we must be aggressive in showing employers that our region has the talent resources required by today's knowledge-based industries," said WMSA President Greg Northrup. "We have seen from experience that the National Career Readiness Certificate is a proven path towards accomplishing this goal and applaud the Council for Labor and Economic Growth for taking this critical step forward."

The NCRC engagement effort that began in West Michigan has expanded to include active participation from the WIRED Mid-Michigan and Detroit regions. Most recently, it has also drawn together the collective strengths of the Michigan Department of Education and Department of Labor and Economic Growth, key regional intermediate school districts and other stakeholders.

"What we are seeing emerge with this decision from Lansing is the opportunity to truly have an all-encompassing statewide currency for skills assessment based on nationally recognized standards. That structure gives us the opportunity to change how schools measure success, how employers screen and advance workers, and how workers measure their readiness for the job market," said Bill Guest, leader of the NCRC Innovation within WIRED West Michigan, and managing partner for Metrics Reporting, West Michigan.    

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