VICKSBURG – Economic development in Vicksburg and Warren County in 2018 and beyond could hinge on an effort to become certified a Work-Ready Community by the nation’s premier academic testing standard.
Earlier this year, employers in the Hinds Community College attendance district agreed in principle to begin recognizing the National Career Readiness Certificate and have their respective counties certified as an ACT Work Ready Community. The national credential is a portable, industry-recognized standard of achievement that identifies proficiency in three key areas for landing jobs of today – reading for information, applied math and locating information. The national initiative is headed up by ACT, the nation’s leading college admissions testing company. Hinds administers the NCRC exam to Adult Basic Education and Career-Technical Education students as well as to current employees from industry partners.
On Wednesday, members of the Vicksburg Warren County Chamber of Commerce heard of the potential pluses of adopting tangible assessments for hiring employees from college officials and industries using it or thinking seriously about using it.
“You know when you enter a new city or county and see the signs that say ‘certified retirement community?’,” said Dr. Robin Parker, assistant dean for Career and Technical Education at Hinds, asked chamber members during a program and panel discussion during the group’s monthly luncheon. “Well, we want a sign in Warren County that when someone drives in, they say, ‘This community values work and has a group of people that’s ready to do what’s best for the community.’”
Issued at four levels – bronze, silver, gold, and platinum – the NCRC helps take the guesswork out of hiring, training, and promotion decisions. WIN Job Centers in Hinds, Warren, Rankin and Claiborne counties, as well as in Madison County, administer it to clients in each community who are applying for jobs.
“This can be very beneficial toward your recruiting purposes and retention goals,” said Pablo Diaz, executive director of the Warren County Port Commission, to chamber members. The commission is among several partners on the effort in central Mississippi.
“But, I want you to think about this, too – this will be a standard that any community’s going to be held up to in terms of economic development projects,” Diaz said. “We are going to be asked, ‘Are you a certified community?’ And if you say no, then for a potential project it means we don’t have the data on the workforce to demonstrate how good or not good they are.”
Panelists for the luncheon included human resources professionals with companies using or thinking about using the NCRC in their hiring process. They, along with Parker, fielded questions about the test from chamber members, many of whom run their own small businesses or hold positions involved in making hiring decisions.