What is the ACT National Career Readiness Certificate (NCRC)?

The ACT NCRC, issued by ACT, is a portable, research-based credential that certifies essential skills needed for workplace success.

How does an individual earn the ACT NCRC?

An individual must score at least a level 3 on three WorkKeys® assessments: Applied Mathematics, Locating Information, and Reading for Information.

What is the significance of the cognitive assessments associated with the NCRC?

Studies performed by ACT on more than 18,000 jobs identify the tasks that are most important to job performance, as well as the essential skills needed to perform them. These data serve as evidence showing the skills documented by the NCRC to be highly important to the widest range of jobs, making them the foundation for a qualified workforce. Skills are measured by three assessments:

  • Reading for Information—comprehending work-related reading materials that range from memos and bulletins to policy manuals and regulations
  • Applied Mathematics—applying mathematical reasoning to work-related problems
  • Locating Information—using information from such materials as diagrams, floor plans, tables, forms, graphs, and charts

What cognitive skills are measured by the NCRC?

  • Problem solving
  • Critical thinking
  • Reading and using work-related text
  • Applying information from workplace documents to solve problems
  • Applying mathematical reasoning to work-related problems
  • Setting up and performing work-related mathematical calculations
  • Locating, synthesizing, and applying information that is presented graphically
  • Comparing, summarizing, and analyzing information presented in multiple graphics

What is the primary purpose of the NCRC?

The NCRC complements such traditional credentials as high school diplomas, community college degrees, and certificates of technical proficiency. Academic credentials mark the fulfillment of an individual’s classroom learning experiences. The NCRC relies on standardized assessments and confirms an individual’s competence in a specific set of workplace skills.

What qualities make the NCRC unique?

The NCRC is based on highly reliable standardized assessments that have been used by thousands of employers across the nation since they became available nearly two decades ago. They are part of the WorkKeys job skills assessment system, which is developed and maintained by ACT in accordance with formal industry standards established by the Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing (1999; developed by the American Educational Research Association, American Psychological Association, and National Council on Measurement in Education) and the Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedures. To adhere to these standards, ACT performs intensive research and data analyses on an ongoing basis. More than 15 million WorkKeys assessments have been administered since the system was launched.

Earning an NCRC Plus certifies an individual’s cognitive and soft skills.

Does the NCRC expire?

No, each NCRC includes a date of issuance and does not expire. Generally, certificates should be renewed after five years. The skills measured by any credential tend to change with time.

Why is the WorkKeys logo not printed on the NCRC?

To help build brand awareness for the NCRC, the WorkKeys logo was not added. Too many logos can cause brand confusion, especially when co-branding is added.

The ACT NCRC design seems to be missing a valuable element that provided examples illustrating the value of each certificate level. Simply saying Silver does not tell an employer or job seeker how this level compares to Gold or Bronze.

The information printed on the ACT NCRC provides a general description of the skills that are most widely associated with performing job tasks. Although the previous version of the credential provided generalized information based on “level,” it did not fully explain all of the skills reflected by the scores on which it was based. For example, scoring a Level 6 in Math and Locating, and a Level 3 in Reading, would generate a Bronze certificate.

Information printed on the current ACT NCRC aligns with the manner in which the credential is intended to be used. Employers who require specific levels of WorkKeys scores are encouraged to perform a job analysis.

When individuals complete WorkKeys tests, should they expect to receive an NCR upon completion from the facility that tested them?

This depends on the facility and whether it is set up to print and/or receive the NCRC. If the site only conducts testing and is not distributing certificates, the individual will need to create an account and order a certificate from ACT.

What about test scores associated with regular NCRC levels, e.g., Gold, Bronze, etc.? Can employers review these through the online verification system?

Examinees can review their test scores online. A prospective employer can view only a certificate level and NCRC Plus rankings. Individuals can provide scores to a prospective employer by printing a transcript from their online account.

Who maintains the NCRC and the WorkKeys system?

The WorkKeys system and the NCRC are maintained by ACT, an internationally recognized assessment and research company that is solely responsible for developing, distributing, and scoring WorkKeys assessments. Although ACT is most widely recognized for helping millions of people transition to college via the ACT® college admissions program, ACT is similarly committed to establishing evidence-based solutions that help young people and adults successfully transition to meaningful jobs and careers.

How is training provided in support of the NCRC?

Training curriculum and learning management services are also part of the ACT® WorkReady System. KeyTrain® courseware is specifically designed to improve skills measured by WorkKeys assessments and documented by the NCRC. The system includes placement tests that enable individuals to begin learning at an appropriate level and end-of-course instruments that confirm that individuals are prepared to complete WorkKeys assessments and earn the NCRC. KeyTrain’s centralized management system tracks learner activities and progress as skills improve. Educators and workforce development agencies commonly use Career Ready 101 to prepare emerging workers for employment. This expanded program provides access to the full KeyTrain curriculum and includes additional learning content that addresses such areas as life skills, financial literacy, and career development. More information is available on the KeyTrain website .

Is the Talent assessment tied into the KeyTrain system? Does it tie into Career Ready 101? Does KeyTrain address the remedial side of Talent?

No curriculum that relates to improving Talent scores will be offered in the future. ACT is currently finalizing KeyTrain curriculum that is related to improving work-related behaviors that are directly associated with Talent constructs.

How has the NCRC been adopted by industry sectors and skill credentialing systems?

Organizations representing several industry sectors have adopted the NCRC as the gateway credential to certification systems and career pathways strategies. The Manufacturing Institute, the research arm of the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), became the first one to do so when it established the NAM-Endorsed Manufacturing Skills Certification System (MSCS). It positioned the NCRC as the initial step in pathways to industry-recognized credentials offered by the Manufacturing Skill Standards Council (MSSC), the American Welding Society (AWS), and the Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME). The National Center for Construction and Engineering Research (NCCER) uses the NCRC to introduce its credentialing programs for the construction sector. The Center for Energy Workforce Development (CEWD) has integrated the NCRC into its “Get Into Energy” career pathways initiative. The MSCS and the CEWD strategies emphasize the role of competency models developed by business and industry for the U.S. Department of Labor. Advocates in other sectors are investigating similar initiatives.