Madison County Commissioners received the official designation as a Certified Work Ready Community (CWRC) at a plaque presentation, May 5, at Black River Electric Cooperative's meeting room.
“It is a pleasure to announce that Madison County has achieved the work ready status. Our workforce is our number one asset,” Missouri Department of Economic Development (DED), CEcD Director Mike Downing said stressing the importance of this milestone.
“Madison County is proud to become certified as a Work Ready Community,” said Bob Mooney, presiding county commissioner and chair of the local CWRC efforts. “We believe this will help our business recruitment—particularly with our strong manufacturing base—and look forward to improving employer base utilizing this valuable asset.”
The three key benefits of certification are it makes employees more marketable, reduces the risks of employee hiring for companies, and makes the community more marketable for potential businesses Downing said.
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“Madison County adds its name to the growing list of certified counties,” Downing said. “There are currently 25 fully certified counties in the state. Missouri is one of the first four states to get involved in this initiative.”
According to DED, the CWRC designation, led 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.
Madison County already had been offering Workkeys assessments for the National Career Readiness Certificate (NCRC), which helped the community meet its goals as it set out towards achieving certification. The Missouri Jobs Center in Park Hills and Mineral Area College were instrumental in testing local workers.
The CWRC Initiative also helps employers learn about the workforce qualifications in Missouri cities which take part. A well qualified workforce is the number one criterion businesses look for when they are making plans for expansion into new areas.
June O’Dell President of the Workforce Development Board spoke at the ceremony and her assistance helps keep the state’s job centers operational.
O’Dell is employed by the Missouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations program Work Force Innovation and Opportunity Act, which stems from federal legislation to improve the workforce across the nation, implemented in 2014.
The work keys is the assessment tool for career center employee placement and is endorsed by ACT, according to O’Dell.
“It takes everyone working together, business owners, chamber directors, city leaders, (etc.) to achieve to achieve these goals,” O’Dell said.
The goals she referred to were the ability to match the “right worker with the right skills, at the right time.”
Cap America is a major Madison County employer. Sarah Bergen, Cap America's human resources director, said this program will help her identify needed skills in company applicants.
A benefit of the testing is it helps students determine their personal qualifications and then find a job. It has been instrumental in assisting students with career exploration by revealing new possibilities to them, according to Downing.
“I hope this endeavor will keep going. We need to get more students tested,” Mooney said.
A study by a private organization was published on the four counties in the region (Iron, Madison, Ste. Genevieve, and St. Francois) relating to assisting businesses with finding the best sites in Missouri. The study indicated those counties with the certified work ready community status were placed higher on that list.
Sullivan outlined St. Francois County’s participation in the USDA Strengthening Economies Together program has deemed the county eligible to apply for grants. He said the communities which make the effort to support and improve their workforce would most likely improve their chances for receiving grants. Sullivan also said the economic strengthening of one county in the region, will benefit the others.
During the SET program, representatives from the same four counties--Iron, Madison, Ste. Genevieve, and St. Francois--were invited to participate in the development of an economic enrichment plan for the region over the last several months at Mineral Area College.
“This is a regional effort,” USDA Rural Development Program Support Director Greg Batson said, earlier this year. “It is a very important process.”
This certification serves to benefit the county in the following ways:
- Job seekers can attain jobs by receiving required employer skill sets and success how to’s.
- Educators receive better tools for improving students’ work skills through academic career pathways with industry-recognized credentials.
- Businesses gain more effective communication of workforce needs to area education and workforce training programs.
- The economic development organizations benefit by becoming better equipped to promote the quality of their workforce through an on-demand reporting tool.
Madison County Commissioners received the notice from ACT Work Ready Communities that Madison County had become a certified ACT Work Ready Community, Jan. 22.
Counties receive the CWRC award from their state when they meet criterion relating to individuals who earn NCRC’s. Businesses express their support for NCRC and each county may have unique requirements.
These partners were instrumental in obtaining the Madison County CWRC designation; Cap America, Fredericktown Industrial Development Authority (IDA), Fredericktown School District, Madison County, Mineral Area College, Southeast Missouri Workforce Investment Board, St. Francois County IDA and others. Among those who who attended the ceremony were: Tina Miller, with MAC's Fredericktown campus; Kent Marler, Fredericktown IDA/New Era Bank; Collin Follis, Fredericktown IDA/Follis & Sons Funeral Home; Sarah Bergen, human resources director Cap America; Phillip Page, owner/CEO Cap America; June O’Dell, Cheri Tune,DED, director of certified work force ready communities Sara Strausberg DED Media/Communications; Al Sullivan, president St. Francois IDA, Linda Fitzgerald, DED, Division of Workforce Development, workforce coordinator, Mary Jo Jensen, Fredericktown R-I assistant superintendent, Eric Hovis, Fredericktown Police Chief; Jason Fitzwater, assistant police chief.
For more information about CWRC and application methods, visit www.ded.mo.gov/getcertified.
Traci M. Black is a reporter for the Democrat News and can be reached at 573-783-3366 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.