ACT Certified Work Ready Communities Academy
The ACT® Work Ready Communities initiative is a core element in the effort to build a truly national system for work readiness. At the core of this aspiration sit ACT National Career Readiness Certificates (NCRCs) that focus on certifying three essential skills – applied math, reading for information, and locating information. The NCRC is an evidence-based credential that has been proven to accurately predict work readiness and job performance. And, this predictive power applies to all three key groups of people: new workers, transitioning workers and individuals who already have jobs.
These Certificates – and the skills they verify – help assure employers that the people hired and/or advanced will succeed. The Certificates also act like passports – regardless of where an individual lives or moves, the Certificates testify to work readiness. And, because the Certificates are a win/win for employers and employees alike, counties that have sustainable, ongoing certification efforts are far more attractive. In effect, counties that are Certified Work Ready Communities have a built in economic development advantage in the eyes of existing employers as well as those contemplating relocations.
ACT’s Work Ready Communities Academy is for leaders who want to move aggressively forward into this 21st century approach to work readiness and economic development. The Academy is a twelve month performance-driven program state and local WRC leadership teams use to initiate, deploy and drive carefully tailored statewide efforts that grow the number of counties certified as work ready. The goal is clear: ‘on board’ and certify your counties.
To succeed at this goal, WRC leadership teams shape a performance-driven strategy that builds on deploying ACT's testing infrastructure and data gathering. However, the strategy must go beyond these two elements – and the ACT WRC initiative helps leadership teams do that by shaping what we call a 'challenge' that makes the most sense for each state or community's unique circumstances, including – critically – of work readiness. Successful teams are those willing to invest the team time and focus needed to shape and succeed against this challenge-centric approach.
Approaches and topics covered include:
- THE BASICS: ACT is providing process, tools and data to support building a common platform at the county level for measuring and closing the skills gap based upon the NCRC. The model is built upon partnerships at the national, state and local levels and an Academy approach to provide structure to the start-up and successful launch. ACT WRC is a ‘docking station’ for states and counties to ‘plug into’ and connect their existing or new workforce initiatives. The process includes ‘on boarding’ of counties to the State’s Certified Work Ready Community initiative and to ACT.
- WHY COUNTIES? The LINK, ALIGN and MATCHING of the workforce is implemented at the local level. Having a process in place for county leaders to work together to match people to jobs, align workforce goals to economic development and link education and workforce together to improve the skill level is what county-level Certified Work Ready Communities do.
- THE PLAYERS: Employers, individuals (new to workforce, transitioning, already employed), state leaders, educators, economic development, chambers, workforce professionals, community leaders, families, media and more.
- THE CHALLENGE: Assist WRC community teams develop a one year vision statement that serves as the focal point in developing and launching initiative.
- LEADERSHIP: We help WRC teams figure out who needs to be at the table and how they can assist to make sure success happens.
Composition of state leadership team should consist of state senior staff with decision-making authority that includes:
- Governor's office policy advisor
- State workforce development agency representative
- State department of commerce or economic development staff representative
- Community/technical college staff
- K-12 career and technical education staff
- Business and/or chamber representative
- Other representative
Local leadership teams should consist of:
- Local chambers of commerce
- Local economic development organization
- Local workforce organization
- Local community or technical colleges
- Local school board officials
- Local elected officials
- Local businesses and leaders
- Local civic organizations
Upon completion of the ACT WRC Academy and implementation of the WRC framework, teams will have successfully established a sustainable, county-based Certified Work Ready Community effort. Successful states, regions and communities will enjoy established performance metrics and documented return on investment that can be leveraged to integrate and connect current workforce development efforts and to jump start new initiatives.
States, regions and counties who successfully launch WRC programs aligned with the ACT WRC Common Criteria will receive continued long-term support from ACT to sustain their initiatives post-WRC Academy.
How to get involved
There are two avenues to engage with the ACT WRC Academy. Statewide CWRC teams and large regions may apply for the state/regional WRC Academy. ACT is also now offering a county-level program that allows individual counties in non-participating states to join the ACT WRC initiative.