ACT Commits to Help America Build Tomorrow’s Workforce Now

Posted April 11, 2012

CHICAGO—ACT, Inc., the leading, not-for-profit provider of assessment, research, information, and program management solutions in education and workforce development, today launched its “Tomorrow’s Workforce Now” initiative, a commitment to help American businesses and workers meet the challenges of the 21st century. ACT announced the initiative as part of the opening ceremonies for its 15th annual national conference spotlighting best practices in workforce development and credentialing.

Through “Tomorrow’s Workforce Now,” ACT will fund assessment and workplace credentials to provide a jump start toward solving the workplace skills gap. This gift to the nation will enable thousands of employers and tens of thousands of individuals to try a proven, evidence-based workplace solution—at no cost.
ACT will document and analyze valuable additional data to help businesses pinpoint deficiencies in their talent pipeline, and individuals will be able to assess and certify essential job skills. The initiative will require strong leadership and organization at the local level. A growing number of community colleges across the nation have already committed to leadership roles in implementing the program. Community colleges will work with other local partners including businesses, workforce agencies and economic development agencies to help build communities equipped to create and compete for high-quality jobs and careers.

“American businesses have faced their share of challenges, but this country is not about to relinquish its status as home to the skilled workforce that creates the in-demand products of tomorrow,” said ACT CEO Jon Whitmore. “To build on that proud history, we must work to solve the widely documented skills gap we have in this country. That gap threatens our economy, the vitality of American businesses, and the American worker. The time for hand-wringing is over; the time to act is now. A dynamic 21st century economy demands a dynamic means to assess whether an employee’s skills can be shown, through empirical research, to be aligned exactly to their jobs. ACT is pleased to be uniquely positioned to offer a solution. With this initiative, we hope to ignite a movement toward a widely recognized national workplace-credentialing system that benefits everyone.”

A critical component is the cooperation and support of key partners, particularly the nation’s community colleges. “ACT has enjoyed a long-standing and productive relationship with community colleges,” said Martin Scaglione, ACT’s Workforce Development president. “Community colleges are uniquely positioned at the intersection of individual aspirations and area employer needs. We believe ‘Tomorrow’s Workforce Now’ will contribute to the mission of each participating college, to connect individuals with viable opportunities—in other words, good jobs.”

Dr. Walter G. Bumphus, president and CEO of the American Association of Community Colleges, stated, “It is increasingly clear that better alignment of employer needs with contemporary education and training is critical to ensuring a more competitive workforce. As the premier training provider and an economic engine for the nation, community colleges are essential to that alignment. We commend ACT for investing in this progressive assessment initiative, and we commit to supporting this new effort to better engage employers and better prepare students and workers.”

“Through ‘Tomorrow’s Workforce Now,’ ACT will leverage more than 20 years of data on the skills needed for nearly 20,000 specific jobs, covering 88% of the job titles in the workplace,” said Scaglione. “Our intention is to demonstrate the value of evidence-based tools that reliably predict job performance and help individuals define their own career path.”

Scaglione described the initiative as a mechanism to identify and close the gap between the skills that employers need and the skills that individuals have. “The dynamic credentialing system ACT has created not only helps businesses identify workers whose skill sets meet the needs of today and tomorrow, but also helps communities attract new businesses by demonstrating that they’ve created a dynamic talent pool whose skill sets have been tracked and measured against precise job requirements.”

A major component within the initiative is ACT’s commitment to helping employers across the nation understand and apply its proven assessment tools, which include the ACT WorkKeys® job skills system and the ACT National Career Readiness Certificate (NCRC™) now available from coast to coast.

Who can be a part of “Tomorrow’s Workforce Now”?

ACT, a not-for-profit organization that functions as a public trust, is seeking the support of a wide range of partners and stakeholders in implementing this initiative. It will draw heavily on existing and new relationships with community colleges, workforce and economic development agencies to replicate proven, innovative practices designed to create strong regional economies. Economic and workforce development organizations are encouraged to partner with area employers to participate in “Tomorrow’s Workforce Now.” ACT will build on this support to identify and replicate best practices that are emerging across the nation with respect to career pathways, work-ready communities, workforce training and statewide career readiness programs.

How can partners participate in the “Tomorrow’s Workforce Now” initiative?

ACT invites regional groups of employers and community partners such as community colleges to submit an application to ACT through an online process available at www.TomorrowsWorkforceNow.com. ACT will accept applications May 1 through the end of 2012.

What will be an eligible employer’s responsibility, and what will they gain?

Each employer must commit to completing a survey and testing the workplace skills of 20 individuals—applicants or current employees—using four ACT WorkKeys assessments:

  • WorkKeys Locating
  • WorkKeys Math
  • WorkKeys Reading
  • Personality (formerly known as Talent)

In return, employers will gain valuable, evidence-based data about the assessed individuals and will have access to an insider’s view of national research correlating job skills to job performance by occupation. This research is designed to help employers make more accurate hiring and promotion decisions, thereby reducing turnover and decreasing training time and costs, resulting in positive effects on their organization’s bottom line.

What do eligible employees and job seekers gain?

Individuals who take the four WorkKeys assessments may earn an NCRC or an NCRC Plus. Unlike many diplomas or certifications, both are evidence-based, criterion-referenced skills credentials that are portable across the nation. And because they are standardized, an NCRC or NCRC Plus means exactly the same thing to an employer in Atlanta or Anchorage.

The addition of the WorkKeys Personality assessment to the three core cognitive skills assessments required for the NCRC makes the credential an NCRC Plus. This enhancement adds a valuable dimension in terms of the work-related behaviors an individual is inclined to practice on the job.