Four north Louisiana parishes strive to become Work Ready Communities

Four North Louisiana parishes will launch a new workforce initiative on June 20, 2018 at 8:30 am at the Bossier Civic Center that will enhance the region’s ability to recruit companies and to train a skilled workforce.

Representatives from over 20 regional organizations from Bossier, Caddo, DeSoto and Webster Parishes will announce plans to become ACT® Work Ready Communities. Employers, educators, and business and community leaders are invited to attend the free public launch by registering at actworkreadynorthla.eventbrite.com or by calling 318.677.2559.

“Over the last couple of years, we have seen increased attention given to WorkKeys and the ACT Work Ready Communities Program by companies and organizations that rank communities for their competitiveness in corporate site selection,” said Scott Martinez, President, North Louisiana Economic Partnership (NLEP).  “By participating in this program, we can improve our region’s standing compared to other locations. Availability of a skilled workforce has become a top consideration of companies considering where to locate and expand.”

The ACT Work Ready Communities program is designed to assist a particular area, region or state in developing its workforce pipeline to provide skilled workers for employers by using the ACT WorkKeys System. The framework allows each participating community to measure and to improve the skill levels of its workforce through a standardized workforce skills credential—the ACT WorkKeys National Career Readiness Certificate™ (NCRC). Supported by data updated online monthly by Iowa-based ACT, communities in 26 states are either certified or working toward certification.

The process toward becoming Work Ready Communities began October 2017. The North Louisiana Economic Partnership convened regional representatives from local governments, K-12 and post-secondary education systems, workforce development, economic development and chambers of commerce to apply to the program as a regional team.  Since then, the regional team has attended three of four ACT Work Ready Communities Academies, and an executive leadership and training program, designed and hosted by ACT.

To start the process of becoming certified Work Ready Communities, the team developed a common set of goals around increasing the number of National Career Readiness Certificate holders within different segments of the regional workforce. The next step is to build awareness, cooperation and commitment with local employers, policymakers, educators and economic developers.

“As a result of more stakeholders signing on to participate in this initiative, we will see an increased interest from our students who will begin to see the direct impact a quality Workkeys score can have on their future as a job seeker and successful employee,” said Superintendent Clay Corley, DeSoto Parish Schools.

This initiative is bolstered by the Louisiana Department of Education’s decision to begin funding the WorkKeys testing for some high school students, which has led to several hundred students in the four-parish area graduating high school with a WorkKeys certificate.  They can use this certificate to stand out to hiring managers if they want to go directly to work.  Area community and technical colleges are increasingly embedding WorkKeys in certain high demand programs, so that their graduates will have this additional tool to demonstrate mastery of the skills they need to be successful in their chosen careers. For more information on the ACT Work Ready Communities initiative, go to workreadycommunities.org.