The National Career Readiness Certificate is playing a bigger role than ever before in Michigans economic recovery efforts.
Since adopting the National Career Readiness Certificate last summer, the Michigan Department of Energy, Labor & Economic Growth (DELEG) is well on its way toward awarding thousands of the certificates by July 1 as part of a program designed to help people get new or better jobs.
The DELEG program builds on work initiated in western Michigan by a group of workforce development professionals known as the Michigan NCRC Advocates, which now has members from all over the state. Established in the summer of 2006, the Michigan NCRC Advocates have focused primarily on getting employers to recognize the National Career Readiness Certificate in their hiring and promotion practices. Their initiative stemmed from a U.S. Department of Labor Workforce Innovation in Regional Economic Development (WIRED) grant that the region received.
The group also pushed for the Michigan Department of Education to offer the three core ACT WorkKeys® assessmentsApplied Mathematics, Reading for Information, and Locating Informationthat make up the National Career Readiness Certificate. More than 130,000 high school juniors take these WorkKeys tests each year as part of the Michigan Merit Exam.
The groups work inspired the Council for Labor & Economic Growth (CLEG)the states workforce investment board that advises the governor and DELEG on workforce policyto consider statewide implementation of WorkKeys and the National Career Readiness Certificate.
WorkKeys and the National Career Readiness Certificate were the natural choices for us, given the alignment efforts already under way between the schools and the workforce groups, said Alisande Henry, administrator of the CLEG. In Michigans tough economy, employers need an affordable way to determine whether a potential employee is a promising investment, and job seekers need to know which skills to improve upon so they can compete for the jobs that are available. WorkKeys fulfills both needs.
DELEG is partnering with the 25 Michigan Works! Agencies to deliver the National Career Readiness Certificate program through their service centers or partners, including schools, community colleges, and other organizations. These agencies oversee workforce development services in their area and are governed locally by workforce development boards. They offer the three core WorkKeys assessments as part of the Michigan National Career Readiness Certificate program.
For this first year, the program is targeting participants in the states No Worker Left Behind (NWLB) initiative, although the WorkKeys tests are available to the general public as funding allows. NWLB offers up to two years of free tuition at a community college, university, or other approved training provider for qualified residents who are willing to study toward degrees or certificates leading to careers in high-demand occupations or emerging industries in Michigan.
Getting employers on board is also part of the first phase, said Keenan Wade, program manager in the Bureau of Workforce Transformation for DELEG. His office is collaborating with staff from the Michigan Works! Agencies and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation to call on businesses and encourage them to assess their current employees with WorkKeys. Many Michigan employers already request or require a National Career Readiness Certificate from job applicants.
DELEG likes the portability of the National Career Readiness Certificate and the recognition it could bring to the state, said Wade. The Michigan National Career Readiness Certificate program is a tool that helps both large and small employers succeed. It also helps workforce development officials measure the skills of our workforce and knowing that information can help economic development efforts to attract new businesses to the state.