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Workforce Newsletter

Welcome to the ACT® Workforce Newsletter!



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Upcoming Events

The Forum 2018 – National Association of Workforce Boards

March 24-27, 2018, Washington, DC, Booth 414

You're invited to attend two presentations from ACT personnel at the NAWB Forum:

Leverage National Quality Credential Initiatives into Local Workforce Strategies

Monday, March 26

1:15 to 2:30 p.m.

This panel highlights national credentialing workforce efforts, including both Credential Engine and Connecting Credential initiatives, with a focus on quality credentials. At the local level, there will be a discussion on the new efforts Alabama is launching that stack work readiness credentials with next-level credentials at the state and national levels (Alabama Ready to Work and MSSC), how state and local workforce organizations are engaging stakeholders, and how local industry is benefiting from the efforts. Since Alabama is not engaged in Credential Engine or Connecting Credentials, the discussion will focus on how their current work can connect to national efforts to strengthen these efforts.

Moderator: Debra Lyons, Principal Strategist, Workforce Engagement, ACT, Iowa City, Iowa

Panelists: Dr. Steve Crawford, George Washington Institute of Public Policy, Washington DC; Dave Wilcox, President, Global Skills Exchange Corp.; Karen Elzey, Associate Executive Director, WorkCred, Washington DC; Donny Jones, Alabama Workforce Council and COO of Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama, Tuscaloosa, Alabama; Jennifer Jones, HR Manager, Mercedes, Tuscaloosa, Alabama


Level the Playing Field for Workforce Competitiveness

Sunday, March 25 

10:15 to 10:45 a.m.

Discover how the ACT Work Ready Communities (WRC) initiative helps regions implement skills-based hiring with employers and unite system partners in a quality-driven Baldridge™ framework for workforce excellence. WRCs help workforce partners satisfy their WIOA obligations for collaboration and sector-driven service delivery. This session features success stories from Missouri regarding benefits to customers and partners while raising attention of potential community investors.

Presenters: Mary LeFebvre, Principal Research Scientist, Workforce Policy, ACT; Julie Gibson, Director of Workforce Development, Client Relations, ACT 


Register and get more information about the NAWB conference.

North Carolina ACT State Organization Conference

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Forsyth Tech Community College

Register and get more information about the North Carolina ACT State Organization Conference.

Kansas ACT State Organization Conference

Monday, April 2, 2018

Wichita State University

Register and get more information about the Kansas ACT State Organization Conference.

Save the Date! The ACT Workforce Summit

Oct. 8-10, 2018

Hyatt Regency

New Orleans, Louisiana

ACT is committed to a workforce built to sustain and grow our economy by providing the tools and support needed to develop the workforce employers want. This year’s ACT Workforce Summit will bring together workforce professionals, economic developers, educators, industry associations, employers, and ACT Work Ready Communities to strengthen the nation’s employment base.

Receive notifications about the ACT Workforce Summit.

ACT Work Ready Community Regional Academies

Grand Junction, Colorado
March 27-28

Fulton, New York
April 10-11

Biloxi, Mississippi (Third Academy, Group 8 )
April 25-26 

Get more information about ACT Work Ready Community Academies.

Product Spotlight

Job Profiling: Setting Benchmarks for Success

Clients depend on Phillips Staffing to place the right people in the right jobs. That’s why Phillips turned to ACT WorkKeys® job profiling.

Phillips deployed ACT-authorized job profilers to its client companies to analyze positions. Profilers set skill level benchmarks for positions, and job applicants’ WorkKeys scores were compared to those benchmarks as a factor in hiring. The result: a better fit between the individual and the position, with lower staff turnover and higher productivity among new hires.

“Too many companies have relied on a promote-from-within approach based solely on work history and attendance,” said Ed Parris, Phillips Staffing president. “Individuals are promoted who just don’t have the skills to succeed. (ACT) gives us the data and the tools to establish measurable skills criteria, and it gives workers an objective idea of what they need to succeed.”

Job profiling is what sets the WorkKeys system apart from other assessments used for hiring or selection. The job profiling process breaks down job tasks into the skills needed to perform them.

  1. A focus group of subject matter experts (typically current employees) takes part in the job profiling process.
  2. The group participates in a task analysis to customize a list of tasks to reflect their job and rate each task by importance.
  3. Skill analysis links each task to skills and skill levels.
  4. The result is a WorkKeys job profile for the job analyzed.
  5. Organizations assess individuals, comparing their scores to the skill benchmarks.

Job profiling saves businesses and organizations time and money in the long run, halting costly turnover and boosting productivity by hiring the right person into the right job.

Read the Phillips Staffing Case Study (PDF).

Curriculum Profiling: Creating a Starting Point for Learners

Educating a 21st-century workforce means giving learners a basis upon which they can build job- or career-specific skills. Curriculum profiling, using the ACT WorkKeys system, helps educators identify the skills and skill levels that students need to enter and succeed in a program of study, including courses and curricula, training programs, and apprenticeship programs.

Similar to WorkKeys job profiling, curriculum profiling involves the input of educators, learners, and end users. An ACT-authorized job profiler works with instructors, curriculum directors, students, employers, and other subject matter experts to determine the benchmark WorkKeys skill level scores needed to enter an educational program. The profiler leads subject matter experts through the process of linking learning objectives to skill levels and determine current and future skills needed to enter a program.

Using WorkKeys curriculum profiling benefits many groups:

  • It helps instructors use WorkKeys as a prerequisite for curricula, ensuring their learners have the foundational skills needed to succeed while boosting completion rates.
  • Learners gain a clear understanding of what skills are needed to succeed in a program of study, giving them informed insights when making decisions about career paths.
  • Employers have a better sense of the strong foundational skills possessed by graduates when they apply for jobs.

ACT offers many levels of customization for curriculum profiles, with WorkKeys scores needed for entry and exit, comprehensive list of learning objectives, and reporting.

See our Step-By-Step Guide to Curriculum Profiling (PDF) using the WorkKeys system.


WorkKeys Assessments

What's New (and What's Sticking Around)

To keep the ACT WorkKeys National Career Readiness Certificate® relevant to the changing skill requirements of today’s jobs, ACT updated the assessments in 2017 to keep content fresh and is moving them to a new delivery platform to create an improved examinee experience (e.g., less scrolling, updated graphics).   

New: In 2017, the ACT WorkKeys National Career Readiness Certificate assessments and credential have been updated as:  

  • ACT WorkKeys Applied Math (formerly Applied Mathematics) 
  • ACT WorkKeys Graphic Literacy (formerly Locating Information) 
  • ACT WorkKeys Workplace Documents (formerly Reading for Information)  

Also, the WorkKeys Assessments will be delivered on a new, modernized delivery platform for a better overall experience.   

Continued: The following assessments you’ve come to rely on will remain available:

  • Workplace Observation  
  • Business Writing  
  • Applied Technology 

You can read more about the WorkKeys Assessments here.

Got Questions About Job Profiling?

We've got answers.

Are you an employer, or do you work with employers who have existing ACT WorkKeys job profiles and are thinking about what may be involved in transitioning to the updated WorkKeys Assessments? Or, do you have questions about:

  • What to do when a job has changed since the job profile was completed?
  • How to determine which skills were profiled?
  • Whether your profile report reflects a content validity format?  

We have experts who can help you think through the relevant issues and plan accordingly. Contact ACT’s Industrial-Organizational Psychology department (Carol Ogletree, Cindy Hill, and Helen Palmer) at

ACT Leadership Blog

Labor Leader: How to Build the Workforce of the Future

Jane Oates said she felt “inspired and renewed” after meeting education and workforce professionals at the recent ACT Workforce Summit last November. She also felt that too many of these growth drivers are hungry for the information that to helps them do their jobs better.

Oates, a former assistant secretary for employment and training at the US Department of Labor, recently discussed what workforce trainers and developers must do to help their communities build and sustain a strong workforce. Those steps include:

  • Aligning training to which skills are demanded
  • Engaging employers in the credential-building process
  • Building a pathway for all learners
  • Agreeing on which assessments to use

“The biggest opportunity for employers and job seekers is the increased clarity around job descriptions,” Oates writes. “That clarity is good for job seekers, because they understand the skills they need to have to be a strong candidate, while saving employers time and money.” 

Read Oates’ contribution to the ACT Leadership Blog.

Research Spotlight

Applying WorkKeys Scores to Programs of Study

In early 2017, ACT and the Corporation for a Skilled Workforce developed a joint project to explore the possibility of a connection between ACT WorkKeys competencies and the Lumina Connecting Credentials Framework. The two organizations developed a crosswalk between WorkKeys and the framework. 

The crosswalk can be used in conjunction with the Framework to (1) determine entry-level WorkKeys scores required for developed programs of study whose learning outcomes have been profiled using the Framework, and (2) connecting the ACT WorkKeys National Career Readiness Certificate to other credentials that have been profiled using Framework.

Connecting WorkKeys as an entry-level assessment for programs of study using the beta Connecting Credentials Framework has potential value to educators, especially those who seek to develop programs where stackable industry credentials are a strategy for achieving the desired outcome. However, connecting the NCRC to employment success is also important. Educators may want to further leverage ACT Job and Curriculum Profiling to create an even stronger alignment to skills required by employers.

Download the Crosswalk Report (PDF)

Best Practices

Success Story: Arkansas County Aims to Keep Workforce Strong

The economy of Mississippi County, Arkansas, endured a rough patch about 10 years ago but managed to bounce back. Now, the county currently leads the state in household income and career opportunities. Its leaders are determined to keep it that way.

County leaders in workforce and economic development, education, and industry joined forces to pursue ACT Work Ready Community certification. Bringing the groups together presented a special challenge in a county with two large industrial cities, as both ends of the county fought for industry and tax money.

However, with challenges come opportunities, and Mississippi County pulled together to earn its Work Ready Community certification in summer 2017. Residents have earned more than 1,200 ACT WorkKeys National Career Readiness Certificates, and 67 employers recognize or recommend the NCRC in hiring. Meanwhile, the governor brags about the county’s success all over the world.

Read about Mississippi County’s journey to ACT Work Ready Community status (PDF).

Professional Development

Webinar: Using WIOA Funds with Career Credentials

For those of us tasked with creating a stronger, more skilled workforce, the federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity ACT (WIOA) presents a chance to build the bridge between job seekers and employers using career credentials and workforce solutions. 

WIOA includes funding for workforce developers to increase attainment of industry-recognized certifications. Those who use WIOA funds for this purpose should know:

  • How skill assessments, credentials, and WIOA can work together
  • How skill assessments can be used in employer services (workforce recruitment assistance, training services, strategic planning, economic development, etc.)
  • How assessments help with employer performance measures

While recent guidance from the US Department of Labor will not count foundational skills credentials (like the ACT® WorkKeys® National Career Readiness Certificate®) for the purposes of reporting on program performance, those credentials can be used to verify attainment of foundational skills in combination with other services for career pathways, apprenticeships, or additional credentials. However, there are opportunities to leverage ACT WorkKeys solutions to improve Employer Performance Metrics currently under evaluation.

In other words, where there’s a will to build learners’ skills, there’s a way to fund career credentialing services for WIOA participants. 

View the webinar on using WIOA funds for skill assessment and career credentialing, led by Debra Lyons of ACT.

Connecting the Workforce

Using WIOA Funds with Career Credentials

Debra Lyons
Principal Strategist, Workforce Engagement, ACT

Tom Lindsley
Director, Federal Government Relations, ACT

Julie Gibson
Director, Workforce Development, Client Relations, ACT

Guest Workforce Organization participant:
Frank Neely

Research & Logistics, Workforce Investment Board of Southwest Missouri

Ask an ACT Expert

Q.  The ACT JobPro database does not reflect the new ACT WorkKeys Assessments. Where can we find a list of occupational profiles matched to the new assessments?

A.  Our answer comes from Cindy Hill, Industrial/Organizational Psychologist with ACT.

“The ACT WorkKeys Occupational Profiles are currently classified using the 2010 SOC-O*NET system. On November 28, 2017, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released the 2018 Standard Occupational Classification System (SOC). O*NET staff are currently working on a schedule for updates, and they have assured us that releasing a crosswalk will be at the top of their list. Once the 2018 SOC-O*NET crosswalk is released, we will update the WorkKeys Occupational Profiles website. This update will include skill level data for Applied Math, Workplace Documents, and Graphic Literacy.  

Since these data should only be used as a guide in understanding how the WorkKeys scores relate to occupations rather than making decisions, the levels provided for Reading for Information and Applied Mathematics can continue to be used for Workplace Documents and Applied Math. Since Locating Information and Graphic Literacy both assess the skill of using graphics in the workplace, we know that if Locating Information is relevant to an occupation, Graphic Literacy will be relevant as well. Graphic Literacy is a new test, and there is no crosswalk from Graphic Literacy to Locating Information. It will take some time to accumulate enough Graphic Literacy profile data to report data based on actual profiles. However, for the purpose of guiding understanding rather than making decisions, the Locating Information skill levels could be used until the occupational profiles can be updated for Graphic Literacy.” 

Cindy Hill
Industrial/Organizational Psychologist with ACT