Guest Column: Jobs test will boost workforce

First Posted: 1/25/2011

There is an old song by Curtis Mayfield and the Impressions with the inspirational lyrics People get ready, theres a train comin. You dont need no baggage, just get on board. For Robeson County, that train is approaching in the form of workforce development. Its destination? Economic development and recovery.
For an area with an almost 13 percent unemployment rate, thats quite a bit of good news.
While the song goes on to say that no ticket is required, Robeson County residents do in fact need one. Fortunately, our local officials and educational institutions are making those tickets available.
Youve probably heard about WorkKeys, which is a Job Skills Assessment test that measures practical job skills that are critical for successful employment. The assessment is versatile in that it can be applied to any occupation, whether skilled or unskilled, and at any educational level. Typically, the assessment emphasizes basic job-ready skills in Applied Mathematics, Reading for Information, and Locating Information areas of keen interest to local businesses.
The purpose of WorkKeys comes down to the Career Readiness Certification. which is supplied when the assessment taker acquires an adequate score on the assessment. Scores fall into one of three categories: gold, silver, and bronze. This certification supplies workers with tangible proof that they have the competency and skills necessary to be an asset to companies.
Having such a tool at the countys disposal would be of little use if it were not for the efforts of local officials and educational leaders. They have shown true commitment to the success of the program. During the past 18 months, a partnership of local institutions has aided the Robeson County workforce, everyone from high school seniors to dislocated workers, in obtaining Career Readiness Certificates. This partnership developed primarily through the efforts of Dr. Charles Chrestman, president of Robeson Community College, Dr. Johnny Hunt, superintendent of the Public Schools of Robeson County, Ms. Dana Powell from the Lumber River Work Force Development Board, Ms. Edna Todd from Robeson County Joblink ESC, and the county Board of Commissioners.
Their efforts have led to an increase in the quality of the available workforce and the creation of unprecedented opportunities for workers to be better educated with necessary skill sets for successful employment. And theyre not letting up any time soon. RCCs Workforce Development Programs and WorkKeys Training/Testing Labs are at capacity daily. Dr. Hunt and the Board of Education have secured funding from the county commissioners to provide WorkKeys assessments to all graduating high school seniors, specifically those going straight into the workforce. Incentive grants have even been obtained to provide dislocated or unemployed workers with testing vouchers.
The importance of WorkKeys cannot be stressed enough. At the very basic level, those who complete the training and testing involved in the CRC programs are given a chance to gain increased knowledge of real-world skills that could help them in everything from balancing a checkbook to helping their children with homework. Its not only about getting the job. Its about taking the initiative to improve ones situation through knowledge, which in turn bolsters self-esteem, improving quality of life at an intrinsic level.
As a business owner and county resident, I cannot justly express my excitement in seeing this reinvigoration of our workforce. Our area has suffered some major economic blows, and initiatives aimed at cultivating a strong, qualified workforce such as the WorkKeys and CRC programs will undoubtedly attract potential employers to us.

Harvey Godwin Jr. is a Robeson County native, graduate of The University of North Carolina at Pembroke, and a local entrepreneur.

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