John Truluck, executive director of the Clarendon County Development Board, knows the people of this rural eastern South Carolina county are “hardworking and loyal.” Now Truluck—and the nation—have proof: Clarendon County is the first in South Carolina and the second in the United States to be certified as an ACT Work Ready Community.
South Carolina was one of eight states selected by ACT to participate in the program. This nationwide initiative, led by ACT, provides a framework for states to strengthen economic development by using a community-based approach to certify counties as “work ready.” To earn an ACT Work Ready Communities designation, counties have to reach skill level goals measured by the ACT National Career Readiness Certificate™, engage employer support, and meet or exceed state goals regarding the three-year graduation rate average or improvement percentage.
ACT team members gathered with South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley to celebrate Clarendon County’s designation as an ACT Work Ready Community. From left are Mary Molusky, Gov. Haley, Fred McConnel, and Mike DiNicola.
Clarendon County’s designation demonstrates the rural county’s progressiveness, Truluck said. “We recognize the importance of having a skilled workforce for new and existing industry. We also have the team in place to deliver a workforce for the future.”
Many agencies joined to make the designation possible through the ACT Work Ready Communities Academy. The agencies that led the initiative were the:
- South Carolina Technical College System
- South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce
- South Carolina Adult Education
- South Carolina Vocational Rehabilitation Department
- South Carolina Governor’s Office
- South Carolina Department of Education
- South Carolina Manufacturers Alliance
“It’s about multiple agencies working together on a common vision and mission to bring resources and people together around aggressive but achievable goals,” said Debra Lyons, ACT vice president of community and economic development, whose agency oversees the ACT Work Ready Communities initiative. “When attained, these goals enable the community to demonstrate it has a working plan in place to produce a quality workforce to meet the needs of business and industry.”
The designation was celebrated in Manning, South Carolina, on August 23. Truluck said it was held, appropriately, at a manufacturing plant and was attended by industry leaders, his team, and community members. Also in attendance were Governor Nikki Haley; Dr. Mick Zais, state superintendent of education; and Lewis Gossett, president and CEO of the South Carolina Manufacturers Alliance.
“Strengthening South Carolina’s world-class workforce is one of our main priorities, and we are extremely proud to celebrate Clarendon County becoming an ACT Work Ready Community,” Governor Haley said.
Cheryl M. Stanton, executive director of the South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce, praised the county’s achievement.
“It speaks volumes for the state’s workforce and business community that they are focused on improving economic opportunity for their area,” Stanton said.
Lyons said it’s exciting to see the impact that ACT Work Ready Communities data, processes, and tools are having in people’s lives in the communities engaging in this initiative.
“We’ve always seen the ACT Work Ready Communities initiative as an investment in economic development for the communities and states we serve,” Lyons said. “We feel like these first certified counties are the first fruits. We’re looking forward to seeing more.”
Mary Molusky, ACT state program manager for South Carolina, assisted the state in solidifying the partnership, which enables all South Carolinians to earn an ACT National Career Readiness Certificate at no cost and to have access to ACT Career Ready 101™.
“It’s rewarding to see the tools and resources in place to help this state ensure that all counties can be ACT Work Ready Communities,” Molusky said.