Program raises discussion
Published 8:49 am Wednesday, August 1, 2018
A program that created discussion during the May Lunenburg Chamber of Commerce meeting continued during the July meeting, held July 26.
Lee Ann Mahan with the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research, based in Danville, spoke to the chamber about the county further implementing the WorkKeys National Career Readiness Certificate (NCRC), an assessment that demonstrates students’ work readiness. With enough students receiving the certificate, and employers considering the certificate as a marker for employment, Mahan said Lunenburg County could be qualified as a Southern Virginia Work Ready Community.
The program drew questions and requests for clarification from members of the chamber in May, and during Thursday’s meeting, asking how the program would be implemented, whether county representatives are involved, and ways to enforce that the test potentially become mandatory.
The NCRC, an assessment made by the organization that creates the ACT standardized tests, tests students’ knowledge on the skills needed to excel in the workforce. This includes testing on soft skills, such as punctuality and decorum in a professional setting.
According to a memo from the Virginia Department of Education provided by Mahan, the NCRC assessment and credentials were recently updated to align with some skills needed for the current job market.
“Students who achieve a score of ‘4’ or higher on either of the WorkKeys assessments, “Reading for Information” or “Workplace Documents,” may use it to earn verified credit for reading,” the memo cited. “If the students also achieve a score of ‘3’ or higher on the Applied Math and Graphic Literacy assessments, they would also earn the NCRC, thereby satisfying the industry credentialing graduation requirements for the Standard Diploma.” Mahan said the certificates are available to students in southern Virginia at their high schools and colleges. She said having employer support, including having businesses expect the certificate for their potential employees, would be a large part of implementing the program.
“It’s all about economic transformation,” Mahan said. The test is already available to students at Central High School, Technology Coordinator Natalie Coronas confirmed in an email Monday. The test was taken by students in May.
“We are in hopes that this is going to bring jobs to your county,” Mahan said, saying that she was meeting with Deputy County Administrator Nicole Clark and County Planner Glenn Millican Thursday afternoon.
A brochure from the Southern Virginia Work Ready Community program cited that there are test and job profiling fees associated with the program.
The program puts workforce members into three categories: Emerging, transitional and current. “Emerging workforce would include students, they’re going to be your pipeline,” Mahan said. The transitional category would include adults who are unemployed, pursuing education or who are recent veterans. The current category would include those currently employed.
Mahan said 22 students from Central High School have received the NCRC.
Chamber member Catherine Olmert asked how students would be made aware or recruited into the program.
Mike Hankins, chamber member, said the program would be incorporated through Central High School and Southside Virginia Community College.
“We’re increasingly becoming a demographic where you have undertrained, underemployed, underpaid people on one end of the scale, and older people who came to Lunenburg County to retire because the cost of living is cheap,” Hankins said.
“I have absolutely no demur on whether this is important,” Pat Israel, chamber member, said. “It is, and it appears to be a very good framework that a community can use, but who are the powers that say, ‘this is what’s going to happen?’ … I’m hearing a lot of names, but what is the plan of Lunenburg County to incorporate something like this?”
“Frankly, I don’t think it should be an optional test from the school, and the knowledge is power, even if it’s finding out you don’t know how to do something,” Israel said.
Hankins said it would be up to the school board to decide whether to potentially make the test mandatory for students and to participate in the Workforce Ready Community program.
Deputy County Administrator Nicole Clark said she met with Mahan Thursday and that the county has been learning more about the program.
“It’s something that we’re working toward,” Clark said. “But it will be a little bit more time before it’s finalized.”
To learn more or to take the NCRC test, Mahan said to contact her or LaToya Brooks with Virginia Career Works at LeeAnn.Mahan@ialr. org and latoyabrooks@ southernvajobs.com.