Clark State Strives to Make Clark County a Work Ready Community
Clark State Community College has collaborated with the Department of Job and Family Services/OhioMeansJobs and the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce to establish Clark County, Ohio, as a certified ACT Work Ready Community.
A Work Ready Community (WRC) provides employers access to a certified workforce: individuals who have earned the National Career Readiness Certificate (NCRC). This nationally recognized skill credential measures an individual’s skill level in applied math, workplace documents and graphic literacy – skills required for 77 percent of jobs based on the ACT JobPro database.
“The ACT certification is a portable, evidence-based credential that certifies the essential skills for workplace success,” said Toni Overholser, director of workforce and business solutions for Clark State. “Employers look for it from job candidates, whether they come directly from high school or through postsecondary paths, because it is a valid predictor of job performance.”
Certification through the ACT Work Ready Communities initiative is based on all participating states and counties adopting the ACT Common Criteria.
“So many businesses in this region say they need a qualified workforce,” said Overholser. “Much like the ACT establishes college readiness, the NCRC establishes workforce readiness.”
Amy Donahoe, director of workforce development with the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce, said the designation of a WRC will benefit Clark County in several areas. “Job seekers will be able to show employers their potential for upward mobility during interviews,” she said. “Employers will be able to look at the test scores and see the cognitive ability of the individual, hence having the ability to match the individual with the ‘right fit’ in the organization. This will help make a better job match and reduce turnover within the company overall.”
Donahoe said there are a number of company expansion leads received specifically requesting a certified workforce. “They are familiar with Workkeys from other business locations in other states, and it is to our advantage to show that we are operating in this same space,” she said. “We will be able to show that we have a qualified workforce for specific industries and types of jobs.”
Currently, Preble County is the only county in Ohio certified as a Work Ready Community. Clark County is one of three additional counties working toward the Work Ready Community designation. “Clark County has always been a leader in the workforce arena,” said Donahoe. “Taking these steps toward WRC status will help us continue to be leaders and grow the economic vitality of Clark County.”
Lehan Peters, deputy director of OhioMeansJobs Clark County, said becoming a Work Ready Community provides assurance to employers in Clark County that workers have the essential skills needed to succeed in today’s jobs. The designation would also offer an opportunity to improve job retention for the incumbent workforce and attract new businesses that will strengthen the community’s economic growth.
“Clark State is a valued and essential partner of the Clark County Department of Job and Family Services/OhioMeansJobs,” said Peters. “The organizations have collaborated with Clark State on many workforce-related projects from business attraction to business retention, both working together to close the skills gap in Clark County.”
In 2014, Clark State received a $2.5 million dollar grant from the Department of Labor and Department of Education as part of the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training to work with employers in developing a stackable certificate program. Through the grant, Clark State placed a career navigator onsite at the OMJ center to help with the marketing and recruitment for prospective students entering the program.
“Since the inception of the advanced manufacturing program, over 329 students have enrolled, with 83 successfully receiving advanced manufacturing certificates,” said Peters. “Individuals wanting to enhance their skills or advance their career opportunities to enter into in-demand occupations offered at Clark State may be eligible for training scholarships through the OMJ Job Center.”
Peters said throughout the Miami Valley, employers, community leaders, workforce agencies and educational institutions are working together to identify the gaps, albeit in education, vocation, occupational or “soft skills.”
“Data is a key factor in identifying the true skills gap both locally and regionally,” she said. “Clark County is conducting a labor shed study in 2018 to better understand the available labor supply from manufacturing, healthcare to business professional. Results from the survey will help employers and community leaders develop a strategic workforce plan in an effort to eliminate current and/or future gaps in the workforce talent pipeline.”
Peters said Clark State’s innovative approach to identifying problems and then finding solutions in eliminating the skills gap is second to none. “They understand the importance of collaboration across all entities and invite the best and brightest subject matter experts to the table to help solve problems,” she said.
Peters believes Clark County is fortunate to have Clark State in the area working towards the goal of obtaining the WRC designation. “Their programs are of high standards with high expectations from their students,” she said. “We are a proud partner of Clark State and value their strong leadership, innovative programs, partnerships and most importantly, preparing our future workforce by creating a pipeline of skilled and educated workers.”
“We are working to gain support and understanding of this venture from the business community,” said Donahoe. “HR staff will start to see more and more Workkeys certificates from job seekers; it is important that they take the steps to understand what the certificates mean and how the certificates relate to their own business.”
Site Selection Magazine – whose editorial mission is to publish information for expansion planning decision-makers – recognizes the WRC designation. “Employers are looking for a community with a certified workforce,” said Overholser. “We are looking forward to being able to say, ‘Yes!’”
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