In a special presentation held Thursday at the Arcadia Valley Career Tech Center, the Missouri Department of Economic Development (DED), announced that Iron County has achieved official designation as a Certified Work Ready Community (CWRC).
“Congratulations to Iron County, yet another Missouri county that’s engaging its workforce and existing businesses base to bolster its position for ongoing workforce success,” said DED Director Mike Downing. “Workforce success in Iron County means greater economic stability not only locally, but also it’s good for Missouri as a whole.”
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 business community of the greater Arcadia Valley region, represented by the local chamber of commerce, is proud to be a part of the work-ready program in Iron County,” said Jim Scaggs, Iron County presiding commissioner. “Iron County's business people have recently been busy setting the foundations in place for a stronger local economy for our community and this is an important component. In a small town like ours, every job is valuable and getting every person connected to a job is important. The work-ready certification program helps bring those two together."
The CWRC program is utilized at the AV Career Tech Center to assess transitioning students for career readiness. Several local employers support the program, including the Iron County License Office, First State Community Bank, State Farm Insurance Agency, Cabinet Masters and The Abbey Kitchen.
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 78 counties actively participating in the CWRC initiative and 34 fully-certified counties. With Iron County's certification, it joins the surrounding counties of St. Francois, Madison, Washington, St. Genevieve, Franklin and Jefferson. New certifications are considered on a quarterly basis.
"I am very excited for Iron County and the surrounding communities for being certified workforce ready,” said Steve Pursley, AV Career Tech Center director. “This is a very important step in the growth of our economic development. Here at the tech center we are constantly searching for new ways to improve the opportunities for our students, and this will definitely give them a fantastic opportunity for their next step in life."
In the past few months, about a dozen Missouri counties have celebrated certification as work ready communities.
Additional partners in obtaining the CWRC designation include the Arcadia Valley Chamber of Commerce, Iron County Economic Partnership, Arcadia Valley High School, Mineral Area College, MERS Goodwill, Southeast Missouri Workforce Board and the Missouri Division of Workforce Development.
According to Director Downing, 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."
He said CWRC certification benefits 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.