07/20/09 — WorkKeys program receives funds for development

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WorkKeys program receives funds for development

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on July 20, 2009 1:46 PM

Wayne Community College will receive part of a $225,626 grant and has been tapped to lead an eight-county alliance to replicate the success of its WorkKeys job profiling and testing program.

North Carolina's Eastern Region announced the grant for ASPIRE, Assessing Skills for Performance in a Re-bounding Economy, an alli-ance of community colleges in Carteret, Craven, Duplin, Greene, Jones, Lenoir, Pitt and Wayne counties. The grant will be used to develop a model for job profiling and testing of adults and high school students.

While it has not been announced how the money will be distributed, Diane Ivey, WORKS coordinator for WCC, estimated the college's portion to be around $70,000.

"It is for WorkKeys and career readiness certification and to help other community colleges replicate the success we have had in Wayne County," she said. "WCC will be the lead in the ASPIRE Alliance. There will be six community colleges that represent the eight counties."

The one-year grant runs from July 1 to June 30, 2010. ASPIRE's goal will be to increase the use of WorkKeys and the number of adults obtaining certification, while expanding the successful WORKS model, she said.

The WORKS program, which stands for Wayne Occupational Readiness Keys for Success, was established by the Wayne County Board of Commissioners with the intention of improving the county's labor pool, with an eye toward students coming out of high school.

Ms. Ivey was hired in 2007 to coordinate the program.

Passing along the successful model will likely be done through a mentoring process, she said. There will be internal planning meetings and then representatives from the involved colleges will be invited to attend some of the local advisory board meetings.

"We'll talk about how they can be part of an initiative similar to WORKS, bringing in businesses and show how the approach has been successful here, integrating WorkKeys to bring about a skilled workforce in our county," she said. "We have got some opportunities coming up with industries that also are coming here with Spirit Air Systems (coming to Global Transpark). All of the counties in the surrounding area will provide workers."

Having some success to speak of, and now to share that with other parts of the state, is exciting, Ms. Ivey said.

"Wayne County and the WORKS initiative was really the catalyst for what's going on," she said. "Everyone in our region is looking at Wayne County and wants to know how they can be as successful in their initiatives as Wayne County has been.

"We're excited to be the model and we have got a lot of really good feedback from other counties and from the state and other areas who have given a lot of positive attention to us. ... This is really the first alliance of its kind in our region and possibly in the state."

In addition to the successful collaboration between the college and area businesses, she credited the school system with being involved from the beginning.

"This particular connection is something I hear a lot from other counties," she said. "They want to find out how to best approach their public schools and get them involved in a similar fashion."