01/20/09 — Applicants can take new tests to show job skills

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Applicants can take new tests to show job skills

By Steve Herring
Published in News on January 20, 2009 1:46 PM

County leaders are hopeful that extending a job skills assessment program already available to high school juniors and seniors will benefit the county's growing number of unemployed.

The county's unemployment rate hit 7.2 percent in November, the highest it has been since the early 1980s.

The county, the Wayne Development Alliance, Wayne Occupational Readiness Keys for Success (WORKS) program at Wayne Community College, the Chamber of Commerce and the Employ-ment Security Commission are working together to help people who are looking for work obtain a Career Readiness Certificate (CRC) that measures real-world skills.

They are doing so through a 13-week media campaign designed to expand the WORKS program to the adult population by targeting displaced workers and others looking for employment.

The campaign kicked off on the local cable TV channel and will be advertised in the newspaper and on radio. The Eastern Region of North Carolina, which is providing a grant to fund the testing, is planning to post billboard advertising as well.

The testing is being coordinated by WORKS since it ties in with the program's initiatives, said Diane Price, WORKS coordinator.

The campaign will focus on the benefits of a CRC and how it will be a "differential advantage" to those who have the certificate in the job-seeking process. It also is valuable for employers, she said.

"In an economic downturn it is good to have something to set you apart," Ms. Price said. "Wayne County employers understand what it (certificate) means. It is a great time to do it (test) because a grant is enabling the testing to be done free of charge to public and high school junior and seniors. We want people to take advantage of that."

CRC tests in three areas, reading for information, locating information and applied mathematics.

A gold National Career Readiness Certificate is awarded to those who demonstrate the potential to acquire the skills for 90 percent of the more than 12,000 jobs in the WorkKeys database. A silver certificate is awarded those who meet the skills needed for 65 percent of the jobs. Those meeting 35 percent receive a bronze certificate.

Each test normally costs $10.

WORKS was created and funded by the county to design strategies and solutions for issues facing the county's economic and workforce development. Its mission is to create and marketing skilled, motivated workforce.

County officials said the WORKS program provides employers with a tool to identify more highly qualified applicants, aids employers in creating career ladders and provides opportunities for people to prove their skills to employers and themselves.

Bill Pate of the Goldsboro Employment Security Commission office has been involved with the WORKS program from the beginning.

"With the economy the way it is, we are probably one of the busiest place in town," he said.

People are waiting in line when the office opens at 8:30 a.m.

"Private industries complained they were not getting the quality of applicants they thought they should be getting," Pate said. "In the economy we are in now, industries are looking at protecting their existing core employees. The workforce is aging and these programs should help replace those workers with workers that industry wants."

Having the trained workers also provides the Wayne County Economic Development Alliance with an industrial recruitment tool, he said.

The economy is up and down and that now is a good time to test, especially since it is free at the moment, Pate said.

"Those who prepare -- when the economy goes up, they will be the ones prepared to find the better jobs," he said.

For more information contact Ms. Ivey at 735-5151 ext. 398 or send e-mail to dtivey@waynecc.edu. A testing calendar is available on the on Wayne Community College website at www.waynecc.edu.