04/14/08 — Program prepares graduates for work

View Archive

Program prepares graduates for work

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on April 14, 2008 1:45 PM

A county program designed to better-prepare Wayne graduates to move into jobs in the workforce is already seeing results in three local high schools, officials announced.

When the Wayne County Board of Commissioners agreed to establish the WORKS program, it did so with the intention of improving the county's labor pool -- especially with regard to those students just coming out high school.

And so as part of that, explained Director Diane Ivey, the county has begun piloting the WorkKeys Career Readiness program in three of the county's eight high schools.

Testing seniors at Spring Creek High School, Southern Wayne High School, and juniors and seniors at the Wayne Early/Middle College, she said county and school officials were "very pleased" with the results.

The program, which features three tests -- applied mathematics, locating information and reading for information -- grades on three levels.

For those students who show the potential to acquire the skills for 90 percent of the more than 12,000 jobs in the WorkKeys database, a gold National Career Readiness Certificate is awarded. For those who meet the skills needed for 65 percent of the jobs, a silver is earned, and to those meeting 35 percent, a bronze certificate is given.

Of the 271 students tested, only 21 failed to earn a certificate, while 65 earned a gold, 139 a silver and 46 a bronze-level certificate.

"Usually we do see a bell curve as far as the way the scores fall out, and that's exactly what we saw," Mrs. Ivey said. "We're very excited to see that the skills gap was not as great as some people might think it is, so I think there is a lot to be proud of in this pilot project."

"We're real pleased with the response we got," county school Superintendent Dr. Steve Taylor added. "We thought our kids did real well, and we hope next year we can even improve upon that."

And for those students who didn't do as well as officials had hoped, there is a computer program that can be used as a remedial tool before the tests are offered again.

"It gives them the opportunity to address those skills gaps," Mrs. Ivey said.

It also, she added, gives the school system a chance to address any needs it might have in its curriculum programs.

"It certainly does light some areas they might be able to give extra attention to," she said. "We thought it might be good to give schools ways to pinpoint where they need to work."

Now it will be up to the school board to decide how the program should be expanded to the rest of the high schools, which Taylor said its members will be doing.

"Our plan next year will be to provide that testing to all the schools," he said. "In our initial pilot, we've been pleased with the test results we've received at the junior and senior levels, so our view is that's probably the better level to provide that testing."

He hopes that by taking advantage of this program, the schools can help improve Wayne County's workforce.

"We're one of a few districts in North Carolina -- one of five that I know of -- that even provide this testing," he said. "We've done this in response to the business people, and we want to have this so that as businesses look to locate here, they can look at our workforce preparedness."

And ultimately, Ms. Ivey added, that's the goal -- for all of Wayne County, not just its students.

"The students are only a segment of our population. This is available to everyone," she said. "We've got to be competitive and this is one way we can do that. Career readiness is for everyone."

And for anyone who is interested in taking the WorkKeys Test and earning a Career Readiness certificate, open and free testing will be available from 5 to 8 p.m. on April 28 and May 19 at Wayne Community College. For more information or to sign up, call either Ms. Ivey or Barbara Price at 735-5151 ext. 398 or ext. 394.