Barton County Certified Work Ready Community announcement made during Feels Like Home Tour

April 1, 2016

LAMAR, Mo.— The Missouri Department of Economic Development (DED) today announced Barton County has achieved designation as a Certified Work Ready Community (CWRC). DED Director Mike Downing joined local business, education and community leaders to celebrate while also on the “Feels Like Home Tour” in Lamar.  

“Months of work to achieve work ready status gives Barton County great momentum for stepping forward into today’s discussions on community betterment during the Feels Like Home Tour,” Downing said. “Today is about taking a closer look at Barton County’s growth needs and Missouri’s economic development tools and resources. Barton County should be incredibly proud for positioning itself well with the CWRC to continue moving forward and strengthening its economy and community.”

The announcement was made at Thiebaud Auditorium, which acted as home base for discussions of the Feels Like Home Tour. Launched in 2014, the “Missouri Feels Like Home” tour has visited about a dozen rural communities throughout the state to assess their strengths and challenges in economic development. With a team of experts in a number of fields including energy, tourism and site selection, the tour provides insight into what each community must do in order to grow and stake a claim in the next-generation economy. Those participating will take a bus tour of Lamar to identify specific development needs in the community, and then hold breakout sessions to discuss various topics encompassing economic development, education and community betterment.

The Feels Like Home Tour is jointly organized by DED and Missouri Community Betterment. Lamar is one of five communities hosting tours this year.

The CWRC designation, made by American College Testing (ACT), aligns workforce training programs with the economic development needs of communities, matches appropriate applicants to jobs based on skill level, and strengthens businesses by strengthening the workforce.

“There’s no better way of saying Barton County has a dedicated workforce that’s ready to work right now than by having this CWRC certification in hand,” said Astra Ferris, executive director of the Barton County Chamber of Commerce. “We decided to certify because we want to make sure employers understand how high-quality and agile our workforce is.”

In 2012, Missouri was selected to be one of the first four states to participate in the CWRC initiative, and in 2013, Jasper County became the first CWRC in the nation. Missouri now has 75 counties that are actively participating in the CWRC initiative and 25 fully-certified counties.

In the past month, Vernon, Barry, Chariton and Maries counties have also celebrated certification as work ready communities.

Fast Eddie’s Hot Rod Shop, Westco Home Furnishings, Barton County Memorial Hospital, Higgins Pallet Company, Truman Health Care and Maco Creations are just a few of the businesses supporting the CWRC effort.

Westco Home Furnishings, for instance, uses the NCRC credential in its hiring process.

“The National Career Readiness Certificate is valuable because it helps us ascertain the skills of a potential hire,” said Rachel Keith, general manager of Westco Home Furnishings of Lamar. “The fact that it is backed by ACT makes the NCRC a trustworthy source of information.”  

Other key partners in the certification process include the Barton County Chamber of Commerce, the City of Lamar, Lamar R-I School District, Crowder College, Barton County Community Development Corporation, the Southwest Missouri Workforce Innovation Board and the Missouri Job Center.

CWRC status makes communities more attractive to businesses because it offers a feedback loop for what’s needed by different players in the dynamic 21st Century workforce. Specifically, benefits from CWRC certification include:

  • Workers better understand what skills are required by employers and how to prepare themselves for success.
  • Businesses can more effectively communicate their workforce needs to area education and workforce training programs.
  • Educators have better tools for closing any skill gaps by establishing career pathways for students with stackable industry-recognized credentials.
  • Economic development organizations are better equipped with an on-demand reporting tool to promote the quality of their workforce.

For more information about CWRC and how to apply for certification, visit


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