Jobs, jobs, jobs are the center of the news these days. How to save them, how to make more of them and, certainly, how to help those in need of one. I attended a great presentation on the subject of job readiness last month.
The speaker explained the details of a worker certification process called WorkKeys. What impressed me was the simplicity and adaptability of the method.
WorkKeys guarantees that a certified job applicant has specific skills and is ready to go on day one, which is something potential employers will appreciate. Let me explain.
WorkKeys is a nationally recognized testing process for various job functions like applied mathematics, reading for information and locating information. These are real-life work skills that everyone needs at various levels. This program can certify these and other job skills from basic to extremely high levels.
Math, for example, is an abstract ability which many people have trouble translating from a textbook to an actual work situation. So WorkKeys evaluates different jobs -- they have thousands of jobs profiled already -- then they determine what level of applied mathematics is needed for each job description. People with high school diplomas, college or graduate degrees all test for applied mathematics in the workplace. Their scores show potential employers they are ready for certain job requirements, no matter what their formal education might also offer.
Why is this type of certification exciting? Because it offers help in two critical areas of need in our community: Economic development and increased professional-technical employment.
Ron Nilson, CEO of Groundforce Manufacturing in Post Falls and chairman of the North Idaho Manufacturing Consortium, recently gave a speech on the subject of jobs. Ron reported that back in the 1950s, 17 percent of all jobs were professional but the largest portion, 66 percent, were unskilled positions. Today, the number of professional jobs has not changed much, rising to 20 percent, but now a full 65 percent of our jobs require a specialized skill.
A standardized certification program for workforce readiness would go hand-in-hand with any skill set and/or degree level. The WorkKeys presenter suggested the goal of every high school senior receiving both an academic diploma and a workforce readiness certificate as they walk across the graduation stage. The student would then be prepared to get a job, whether to support themselves full time or help put themselves through skills training or college.
This readiness program has been adopted statewide in 30 states thus far. It costs about $20 per person for the testing and can be offered at schools, Job Service sites and more. Can you imagine the economic benefit of having a local population certified as ready-to-go with the specific needs of a large employer considering North Idaho for their location? It could make a significant difference.
Vicki Isakson at our local Department of Labor used a government grant to sponsor the presentation on WorkKeys and is making great efforts to organize other job creation activities. My hope is that this workforce readiness option can be brought back for a second, larger audience to seriously consider in the near future.
The right fit for a good job is the key to success. Let's help workers in North Idaho show their abilities, help local businesses fill their positions with the right people and let's attract companies with family-wage, sustainable jobs to help stabilize our economy. Jobs are the theme of the day and will be making headlines for many months to come.