Best Practices
December 21, 2011

ACT Certified Work Ready Communities

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ACT, one of the largest educational testing 501(c)(3) organizations in the United States, has propelled its mission to advance education and workplace success to a new level with Certified Work Ready Communities (CWRC). CWRC is a community-based workforce development implementation framework and certificate program that empowers counties and states with actionable data and specific workforce goals. Participating states are leveraging the National Career Readiness Certificate (NCRC), an industry recognized credential issued by ACT that identifies an individual’s skills in reading for information, applied math, and locating information. Aimed to drive economic growth, over 1.2 million certificates have been awarded since the NCRC’s inception in 2006, the majority of which have been earned in the last two years.

“We’re excited about the potential for this new initiative to really move the needle for economic development in the states we serve,” said Debra Lyons, ACT’s vice president for community and economic development. “This platform provides states and communities opportunities to collaborate on workforce development and offers irrefutable proof of the quality of their workforce.”

Community certification is based primarily on NCRCs earned at the county level. ACT is working in conjunction with participating states to set goals at the county level, and specific targets are based on population and labor force data. In addition to certificates earned among all workforce demographics —everyone in a community who earns an NCRC helps their community become certified—improving high school graduation rates and businesses recognizing the NCRC are also factors. The framework also includes a process to measure and close the skills gap.

State-led leadership teams apply to take part in the initiative by submitting an application which is reviewed by a committee and evaluated based on a point system; once accepted, leadership teams participate in workshops, receive guidance on how to create goals for completed certificates and high school graduation targets, as well as monthly data updates to track progress. To lead state teams through a successful start-up and deployment of a statewide CWRC, ACT will offer a year-long executive training program called the Certified Work Ready Communities Academy. The tools work across sectors and allow for individualization based on the workforce needs. The first group of participating states will be announced in January 2012, and the second round of applications for states to apply is scheduled for summer 2012.

The ACT WorkReady System includes job analysis, assessments, training and curriculum, certification, and research and analytics. Research has been conducted on over 18,000 job profiles which has allowed ACT to identify the necessary skills to excel in professional and technical positions and subsequently create a career pathway.

For more information on ACT Certified Work Ready Communities, visit their website

This article appears in ICW's December 2011 newsletter.