11/02/07 — Program pinpoints employees' skill levels

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Program pinpoints employees' skill levels

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on November 2, 2007 2:01 PM


News-Argus Staff Writer

As Wayne County begins in earnest to find new ways to prepare, train and advertise a skilled workforce, APV Heat Transfer is out in front of the pack.

Utilizing a job skills assessment system called WorkKeys, APV has already gone through the process of profiling its current positions and has implemented pre-employment skills testing for new hires.

The next step, explained Jeannie Gilchrist, human resources manager, will be to test the current workforce, and if necessary, implement new and better training programs.

The WorkKeys program, which has only been available in North Carolina since 2004, is a central part of the new, broader workforce development program WORKS (Wayne Occupational Readiness Keys for Success).

The goal of that program is to improve the skill level of Wayne County's -- often small -- labor pool in hopes of attracting new business and industry.

By the time the WORKS program was developed, though, APV was already using WorkKeys -- and, said Ms. Gilchrist, was very pleased with the results.

The first step was to create a profile of the company's current jobs.

"Once they're profiled, you have a better understanding of what is needed to do that job," Ms. Gilchrist explained.

Different than a general job description, she said, "it gives you the specific levels of math and reading that are needed to do those jobs."

Then, by testing the skill levels of new hires, the program helps make sure that employees are qualified for the jobs.

"It helps you ensure you get the right fit," Ms. Gilchrist said.

And so far, she has been impressed with the quality of Wayne County's workforce.

"The people who have been tested have done quite well. The workforce in Goldsboro seems to have those basic skills any company is looking for," she said.

Among those skills -- and the ones for which individuals can earn Career Readiness Certificates showing their skill levels -- are applied mathematics, locating information and reading for information.

Now, Ms. Gilchrist explained, the third leg of the stool will be to evaluate current employees and implement training programs to help those not up to par.

"It's not a culling tool. It's to help us and to help them. It's a win, win for both company and the person," she said. "Employees are the only resource a company has that appreciates. Everything else depreciates. Employees are a valuable resource. This will help us improve training."

WorkKeys is, Ms. Gilchrist continued, a program that other county businesses should start using. It's also a program that she recommends to anyone who is unemployed or looking for another job in order to make themselves more marketable.

"It creates a standard for everybody to understand," she said. "I'm excited to hear that it's going countywide, plus statewide.

"A state's workforce skill level is important to attracting new businesses, and a state that can attract new businesses and continue to grow, can keep a healthy economy."

Currently, WORKS director Diane Ivey and WorkKeys program coordinator Joe McMichael are still in the process of planning how exactly the assessment system will be offered, but anyone interested should call them at Wayne Community College at 735-5151, extensions, 396 and 398, respectively.