Todays college graduates need all the help they can get to land a position in a tight job market. For some, help is coming in the form of WorkKeys and career readiness certificates.
Graduates these days have to compete not only with their entry-level peers, but also with laid-off older workers who have many years of experience. They need something that sets them apart, said Randy Myers, dean of student services at Hutchinson Community College and Area Vocational School (HCC) in Hutchinson, Kansas.
A Hutchinson Community College student brazes pipe as part of the Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration program.
HCC is one of several community colleges that are administering ACTs WorkKeys assessments in their academic programs. The colleges Computer and Industrial Technology Department offers the Applied Mathematics and Reading for Information assessments to students upon entry in 14 degree programs and 10 certificate programs. The department offers the Locating Information and Talent assessments to students upon exit from those programs. Students who achieve qualifying scores on the Applied Mathematics, Reading for Information, and Locating Information assessments can earn a Kansas WorkReady Certificate and a National Career Readiness Certificate.
Though they are not required to take the tests, many students pursue the opportunity to earn the certificates.
They understand that the WorkKeys assessments have meaning and impact on their ability to gain employment, said Myers. They are providing employers with proof that they have the skills needed to do the jobs available.
HCC knows a lot about what employers need. The college began using WorkKeys in the 1990s, primarily as a selection and training tool for business and industry. Staff completed job profiles in selected career areas and assessed local high school and HCC students to see if their skills matched the profiles.
A shortage of skilled workers recently prompted local employers to ask area colleges for assistance in pre-qualifying workers. About the same time, Jackie Long and Jillene Cunningham, co-chairs of the Computer and Industrial Technology Department at HCC, were looking into adding WorkKeys to their programs.
A Hutchinson Community College student reviews a CAD drawing created in the Computer Aided Drafting program.
Faculty use the results from the Applied Mathematics and Reading for Information tests to advise students on courses and careers. Using the Talent Assessment at the conclusion of the programs allows faculty to determine if students are leaving with the 12 personality facets that Talent evaluates and employers seek: carefulness, cooperation, creativity, discipline, goodwill, influence, optimism, order, savvy, sociability, stability, and striving.
In addition to their program degree or certificate, we give our students something else to walk away with that puts them a step ahead of other college graduates, said Cunningham.
Adds Long, Because the assessments are tied to workforce skills, students see the value in them, and they are motivated to earn the certificates that validate their skills. We are glad to offer the assessments because they test the exact skills employers need.