The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

March 15, 2013

Our View: Ready, willing and able

The Joplin Globe

Bring on the jobs. Jasper County is ready.

In fact, Jasper County is the first county in the nation participating in the national ACT Certified Work Ready Communities initiative to meet 100 percent of ACT’s criteria goals. Not far behind are an additional 13 Missouri counties on track to become fully certified within two years.

Gov. Jay Nixon, in a press conference held in Joplin last week, announced the milestone. He along with community stakeholders gathered in Joplin to celebrate the good news.

American College Testing began over 50 years ago, developing college entry exams that were based on key practical competencies. In the late 1980s, ACT took its experience and expertise into the workplace with a program called Work Keys.

As part of the success of Work Keys, employers began asking for a national skills “credentialing” system. ACT responded with the National Career Readiness Certificate.

Several years ago, ACT began the Certified Work Ready Community program. Missouri was one of the first four states to pursue work ready communities, the others being South Carolina, Virginia, Oregon. Utah and Wyoming joined shortly after.

Work to earn certification in Jasper County began in 2010, with the Missouri Career Center in Joplin starting to test people coming through its doors. Several companies already using Work Keys began recruiting other firms into the program. The Joplin Chamber of Commerce and the Joplin School District were just starting discussions when the progress was disrupted by the May 22, 2011, tornado. As leaders envisioned how Joplin could recover from its devastation, being a Work Ready Community was considered so important it was included among the key actions designated by the Citizens Advisory Recovery Team.

Jasper County’s success story is now generating lots of interest throughout the business community and with those who are looking for a job.

The bottom line is the local employers will be able to identify applicants with the best skills. Industries interested in Jasper County can move jobs here with the confidence that they will find a dependable work force.

Most important, the program helps employees help themselves. It makes their odds of getting good-paying jobs all that much better.

Our hat’s off to the collaboration that had to take place to make this happen.