KENNETT, Mo.—The Missouri Department of Economic Development (DED) today announced Dunklin County has achieved designation as a Certified Work Ready Community (CWRC). Incredibly strong support from the local workforce helped the certification happen, with over 2,200 National Career Readiness Certificates (NCRC) earned to help achieve the nationally-recognized status.
“It brings me special honor to congratulate Dunklin County and the Kennett community for achieving this nationally-sought workforce certification,” said Mike Downing, director of the Missouri Department of Economic Development. “Kennett High School is just one testing site helping enable over 2,200 people in Dunklin County to earn important work ready certificates. As a Kennett High School graduate, I am particularly proud of this school and this community working together to continue doing great things.”
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. The NCRC is a work-related skills credential, providing objective documentation of an individual’s skills that is accepted nationwide by many employers.
The Southeast region has made impressive progress with CWRC efforts: Thirteen of its counties engaged in pursuing the certification, which is one of the highest concentrations in Missouri. Four counties in this part of the state are certified, including Madison County, north of Dunklin County, which is also celebrating its certification today.
“Talent is the most essential ingredient for economic growth,” said Jim Grebing, local chair of CWRC efforts and economic development director for the Kennett Board of Public Works. “That’s what makes this designation so important for Kennett and Dunklin County and why we made this a top economic development priority. This lets us demonstrate our ability to measure and match workforce skills with employers because businesses need to see strong basic skills and the capability for workforce training to meet their changing needs.”
The ceremony was held at Kennett’s City Light, Gas & Water Training Facility.
Another reason for successful certification is model employers such as American Railcar Industries (ARI), according to Grebing. The St. Charles-based company has a facility in Kennett as well as two in nearby Arkansas. For hiring purposes, ARI now requires candidates to have obtained a NCRC, which is earned through Workkeys testing.
“We think it is a terrific program, we believe in it and feel very strong about it,” said Dean Inman, human resource director of ARI. “We’ve determined with Workkeys, we know that what we are getting is a person that can read and do math at a basic level and can also locate information. What that tells us is that somebody is prepared and able to learn.”
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 two months, over one half-dozen Missouri counties have celebrated certification as work ready communities.
The CWRC designation was accomplished through the efforts of the City of Kennett Light, Gas & Water, Kennett Chamber of Commerce, Kennett Career & Technology Center, Dunklin County, Missouri Jobs Center, Workforce Investment Board of Southeast Missouri, Three Rivers College-Kennett, and ARI, among others.
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 www.ded.mo.gov/getcertified.