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Workforce Newsletter

Welcome to the ACT® Workforce Newsletter!

“It takes a village” to develop a workforce. Educators, workforce developers, economic developers, business leaders, and government entities have experienced the shift toward a community-based approach to helping individuals and teams build their work-ready skills.

The ACT Workforce Newsletter is designed to give you “news you can use” about trends, data, services, events, and other information to help you achieve your goals in preparing individuals for 21st-century careers.

In this issue:

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ACT Workforce Summit: The Building Blocks of a Strong Workforce

The inaugural ACT Workforce Summit was held November 8-10 in Austin, Texas. The event brought together business, education, and workforce development leaders to learn about best practices in improving the emerging and growing US workforce.

The summit featured speakers presenting the most talked-about trends and success stories in workforce development, economic development, job skills education, and career achievement, including:

Katrina Gilbert, of the award-winning HBO documentary Paycheck to Paycheck, whose personal story serves as a reminder of how education and determination can pull individuals out of poverty.

The Honorable Jeremiah “Jay” Nixon, former governor of Missouri, who made education and workforce development top priorities during his tenure and made Missouri a national leader in ACT Work Ready Communities.

Zach Pousman, principal at Helpfully, is a technologist who works at the intersection of design, artificial intelligence and human psychology. He serves as a tour guide in the near future of work and life.

 

Watch upcoming issues of the ACT Workforce Newsletter for further insights from this year’s summit.

Research Spotlight

Report: Learn More, Earn More

Earning a higher-level NCRC can lead to big income gains in the short and long terms, according to a recent study.

ACT studied a representative sample of 50,000 recipients of the ACT WorkKeys® National Career Readiness Certificate® (NCRC®) and found trends between top levels of performance on the NCRC and earned wages throughout careers. (The NCRC is awarded at four levels: Platinum, Gold, Silver, and Bronze.) The results:

  • 102% wage gain among Gold- and Platinum-level NCRC recipients
  • 63% wage gain among Silver-level NCRC recipients
  • 33% wage gain among Bronze-level NCRC recipients

The study found short- and long-term gains among NCRC holders with high school diplomas or GEDs and found particular gains among recipients who scored a Level 5 or above on the WorkKeys Applied Math assessment.

Upcoming Events

Association for Career & Technical Education (ACTE) CareerTech VISION 2017 Conference

December 6–9, 2017
Nashville, Tennessee
Booth 535

Best Practices

Building a Culture of Employee Safety

The central Louisiana-based Gilchrist Construction Company faced sky-high turnover (nearly 100%), creating issues with employee safety and productivity. As a contractor specializing in heavy highway and industrial work, improving safety was a No. 1 priority.

Gilchrist turned to WorkKeys Assessments and the NCRC. In 2011, Gilchrist started testing job applicants while ACT-authorized job profilers determined the skill benchmarks needed to perform two key positions—heavy truck drivers and transportation dispatchers. Gilchrist uses the NCRC to identify trainees for specific training programs.

Gilchrist saw significant gains from using the WorkKeys and the NCRC:

  • 75% of new hires were retained after the first year
  • 59% reduction in safety incidents
  • Significant return on investment when factoring shorter training time and expenditures

Product Spotlight

ACT WorkKeys Assessments Refresh

ACT strives to keep the WorkKeys Assessments system relevant to the requirements of today’s jobs, which is why the system has undergone a significant refresh in 2017.

Among the changes and updates to the WorkKeys system this year:

  • Assessments have been updated to ensure ongoing relevance and alignment to the changing skill requirements of today’s jobs.
  • Assessments are being delivered on a modernized delivery platform that offers stability, security, and a better user experience.
  • The updated ACT WorkKeys National Career Readiness Certificate can now be downloaded as a PDF and more easily shared with employers.

The philosophy behind WorkKeys, however, remains the same: a focus on broadly relevant career skills, job skill certification, and complementing career curricula.

Best Practices

Building a Culture of Employee Safety

The central Louisiana-based Gilchrist Construction Company faced sky-high turnover (nearly 100%), creating issues with employee safety and productivity. As a contractor specializing in heavy highway and industrial work, improving safety was a No. 1 priority.

Gilchrist turned to WorkKeys Assessments and the NCRC. In 2011, Gilchrist started testing job applicants while ACT-authorized job profilers determined the skill benchmarks needed to perform two key positions—heavy truck drivers and transportation dispatchers. Gilchrist uses the NCRC to identify trainees for specific training programs.

Gilchrist saw significant gains from using the WorkKeys and the NCRC:

  • 75% of new hires were retained after the first year
  • 59% reduction in safety incidents
  • Significant return on investment when factoring shorter training time and expenditures

Partner Spotlight

Job Profiler, Paul Connerty of KC Associates, LLC

Paul Connerty
KC Associates, LLC
www.kcaconsulting.net

When it comes to working with new or expanding businesses, job profiling has allowed Paul Connerty to get in at the ground level. Sometimes literally.“I profiled a construction company building a major manufacturing plant in our region, when the site was just dirt,” he says. “Then I profiled for the manufacturer. It’s fun to be a part of something from the very beginning and work as a partner, watching them succeed.”

Connerty is chief operating officer at his consulting company, KC Associates, LLC, based in Goose Creek, South Carolina. Job profiling consumes more than half of his workload because employers, the technical college system, and workforce development organizations support and value the ACT WorkKeys system—and spread the word to businesses looking to expand in South Carolina.

KC Associates conducts ACT WorkKeys job profiles for South Carolina employers in many industries, including manufacturing, construction, transportation, utilities, and customer service. Connerty’s long relationship with local and state workforce system has been instrumental in advancing the use of WorkKeys.

Connerty recently spent nearly two weeks at a European manufacturing plant, profiling several positions that are now open to job seekers in South Carolina, including production, team leaders, technicians, “basically any position involved in their manufacturing process.”

Business is good, as South Carolina (and the Charleston region in particular) has been a hotbed of growth. Unemployment in the Charleston area is low, recruiting for job openings is nonstop, and WorkKeys profiling is in high demand among employers.

Connerty enjoys the variety involved in job profiling, as he himself has been a “Jack-of-all-trades.” Before getting involved in job profiling through a workforce investment board, Connerty had jobs as varied as bricklaying, welding, and mechanical drafting. When a profiling project requires donning a hard hat, steel-toed shoes, gloves, and safety glasses, he’s right at home. “I carry PPEs (personal protective equipment) with me because oftentimes, the employer will want to take the profiler right out on a job site.”

Profiling is a lot of work, Connerty points out, “but it’s also a lot of fun. Not many jobs allow you to be in a ditch up to your ankles in mud one week, and the next you’re learning how a robot performs a sophisticated welding technique, or how a new GPS system improves the movement of cargo containers in a port terminal."

Connerty has a background in employment discrimination law and knows the importance of ensuring the fairness of a company’s selection practices. “An employer never wants to find out they’re using a test that does not meet the EEOC Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedures,” he says. That’s why content validity is one topic Connerty emphasizes when describing the WorkKeys process. “WorkKeys job profiling and assessments sell themselves when you explain how they add value to an employer’s selection process.”

Paul Connerty
Job Profiler, ACT

Toolkit

Why Employee Turnover Can Be a Good Thing

Employee turnover affects many costly elements of running a business, including onboarding, training, and material waste. Some employers who’ve experienced high turnover, however, have used it as a call to improve their hiring and recruitment practices.

One example is Berner Foods of Dakota, Illinois. The 70-year-old food and beverage supplier requires employees to have the skills necessary to keep up with a rapidly evolving industry. Suffering from high product waste and workers’ compensation claims, the company turned to WorkKeys Assessments and the ACT WorkKeys National Career Readiness Certificate as a standardized assessment tool to screen job applicants and current employees. The result: the best safety run in the company’s history and a 95% reduction in turnover.

View this infographic about a surprising benefit of employee turnover.

Ask an ACT Expert

Q. Why do many of the WorkKeys Assessments’ score levels start at Level 3?

A. Our answer comes from Thomas Langenfeld, principal assessment designer at ACT.
 

“The core WorkKeys Assessments needed to earn the NCRC (Applied Math, Graphic Literacy, and Workplace Documents) have level scores that range from 3 to 7. Test users frequently ask why ACT selected these numbers to represent the score levels.

"At the lowest score level, ACT decided to use a score of 3. The score indicates the lowest skill level that a job would require where the test content is relevant. In other words, for a job in which a worker needs to be able to read, a Level 3 on Workplace Documents would be the minimal skill level required. No jobs would require a lower level of reading. In making this decision, ACT recognizes that lower skill levels exist but wanted to maintain the flexibility to measure these skills at the lower level.

"At the highest level, ACT decided to use a score of 7. Levels 3 to 7 allowed for sufficient differentiation to satisfy employer needs. Also, the highest score level represents the highest level of proficiency that an employer could reasonably expect without additional specialized training.

“For each score level, ACT has developed and verified a Performance Level Description, which provides a summary of the skills demonstrated by an examinee who scores at the specific level.”

Photo of Thomas Langenfeld

Thomas Langenfeld
Principal Assessment Designer, ACT