03/28/10 — Wayne sets Career Readiness Certificate record

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Wayne sets Career Readiness Certificate record

By Steve Herring
Published in News on March 28, 2010 1:50 AM

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Wayne Community College instructor, Lorie Waller, talks with Doris Nobles about the Certificate for Career Readiness program offered at the college to help members of the work force sharpen skills valuable to employers.

Carnell Sutton of Goldsboro hopes to soon add his own accomplishments to the growing record number of Career Readiness Certificates that have been awarded through the program at Wayne Community College.

For Sutton, 52, who has been retired since June 2009, the CRC lab at WCC has not only provided help with new job skills, it has helped him rediscover skills that he thought he had lost.

And he is not alone.

Since its formation in the fall of 2007, the CRC program has awarded 4,335 certificates -- the most of any county in the state.

The program tests in three areas: reading for information, locating information and applied mathematics.

Certificates are issued on three levels: bronze, silver and gold.

"All of the test items on all of the test preps are captured from the real world of work," said Diane Ivey, Workforce Development coordinator at WCC. "They are all word problems. You have to apply what you have learned. There is no list of figures for you to add up. You have to be able to apply your math to a work situation. You have to be able to read a memo or an inclement weather policy and apply it to a situation. As for locating information, charts and graphs, you have to be able to find information and use it. It is very different from any educational assessment you might take.

"It is not related to grade level. It is not related to a specific occupation. It really transcends all education, all occupations because what we are looking at are those foundation skills that are important for people to build on. If you are going to go to an employer and say, 'I am here to do my job' there is always some training that you have to do."

Sutton said he had first heard about the lab from people who had already been to it.

"By listening to them, it gave me some ideas as to what perspective I was interested in for this time in my life for what I want to do," he said. "So far, being involved and participating in the CRC has been very informative to me. I like what they have been able to give to me out of it as far as developing my mind and my thoughts as to things I had previously taken in my education."

Sutton said the lab had helped remind of skills he thought he had forgotten.

"In the math area, percentages, fractions and things like that was something I was pretty good at in my earlier years," he said. "To know it was still there and had not left me."

Sutton said has been visited the lab four or five times and that he plans to take the tests within next few weeks.

"I would definitely recommend it to somebody looking for a job, or somebody who is retired who is not completely settled on what they want to do and still want to come out see where they are and where they may want to adventure later on," he said. "It has been very good to me and I am happy that I took the chance and came out to see what it is about."

Wayne County commissioners appropriated funding to help set up the lab and WCC also put funding into the lab in terms of computers and some other in-kind contributions including the facilities.

"The lab is our employability skills lab," Ms. Ivey said. "It assists folks with test prep before they take the (CRC) test. There are some placements test related to the tests they will take."

Tests are given once a week in the lab and at night once a month.

Teaching software also helps participants prepare for the testing.

The lab is open on Mondays and Thursdays on a first-come, first-served basis. Since it is a lab, people can come and go as they please, she said.

Ms. Price sees people of all ages in the lab who are at all different stages of their careers, including those just starting out ad those who are starting over.

"Job loss can hurt ego and psyche," she said. "CRCs are good ego booster, skill building and resume builder. It is so competitive in the job market. It provides an objective assessment."

And, she said, taking advantage of what the lab offers saves time. People have to wait 30 days between tests for their CRC so it is important to be prepared, she said.

"Basically come to the lab first," she said. "If we see that a person needs more than what we can do for them in the lab then we have other options. The software teaches to a certain degree, but you have to be self-directed. Some people are going to need a little more help than we can give them, so we work with other departments on the college -- the Academic Skills Center and the Basic Skills Division helping us with folks who need more than what we can provide in the lab."

Ms. Ivey estimates that 95 percent of the people who have come to the lab have been able to earn their CRC.

Information about the CRC is available online at www.crcnc.org. However, one area of the site that is still being worked on is building the employer section -- a listing of companies that want employees and applicants to have the certificates.

"We are clamoring for that because it is hard for us to know what is going on all around us and it is important that our folks can understand that is goes beyond what we are doing in Wayne County," she said. "It reaches everywhere."

For example, Ms. Ivey last week fielded a call from someone in Tennessee who was applying for job in North Carolina and who wanted to know if their Tennessee certificate could be used here.

"Basically, I told them, 'Bring me your scores when you get here and, depending on what they are and when you took them, we will be able to issue you one,'" she said. "We do try to encourage people to take advantage of the portability of the certificates."

In another case, a local man is applying for a job in Texas and that required a certificate.

"What we can do is help people register their scores with the national database and that, too, can increase their range for the type of jobs they can apply for," she said.

Helping to add to the program's success has also been the cooperation of the local school system, she said.

"We can't talk about the numbers without talking about how the public schools have embraced CRC as a means to help their students see what the real world skills are that they are going to need and how all of that plays in into what they are doing in school," Ms. Ivey said.

The tests are offered free to high school juniors and seniors. Grants have enable WCC to offer free testing to adults as well who live within the area covered by the grant.

Along with helping prepare people to take the tests, the lab also helps with filling out resumes, interviewing tips and filling out online applications.

"There are other things that we want to do down the road," she said. "We recognize that soft skills are so important for folks and I hear employers all of the time that many of their current applicants maybe have erroneous ideas about the workplace."

Those soft skills include time management, how to deal with difficult people, conflict management and leadership skills.

"We have all kinds of plans for is to come next in our lab and those are the next kind of things we want to," Ms. Price said. "We want to work with folks to really turn out an employee or applicant that every company would like to have in their business -- someone who brings not only those good foundational skill sets, but the soft skill sets, too. Our next step is to identify how we are going to do that."

For more information people may visit the lab in Suite 141 in the WCC Learning Center or call 739-7003, 739-7004 or 739-7005.