Program aims to prepare job seekers, help employers with hiring process

With the demand for skilled trades workers in Johnson County increasing, the Johnson County Development Corp. is leading an effort to help people not only get jobs, but get jobs that fit their skill set.

With the county’s launch as a participant in the ACT Work Ready Communities program earlier this year, any county resident will have the ability to get a National Career Readiness Certificate. When people have the certificate, employers will be able to make better hiring decisions, as they will be able to see how well candidates understand math, graphics and documents such as policies and memos they may see in the workplace.

Employers will also be able to give employees positions more suited to them if they are currently in one that doesn’t suit their strengths, Johnson County Development Corp. Executive Director and CEO Dana Monson said.

While the employment process involves more than the certificate, the certificate can be used to help skilled workers get jobs in entry-level and medium-level positions. Those positions include being a bank teller, hospital accountant, doing lab work in a medical center, manufacturing, welding, mechanics and a variety of customer service positions, Monson said.

“We have been looking at a variety of workforce development programs to see what’s best for our county and that can help us with three key issues: retention of employees, misalignment of skills and an increase of skilled workers in the county,” Monson said. “After reviewing our options this came to the surface as a program that can help employers, employees and the traditional workforce, (including) high school students who are graduating and go directly into the workforce.”

The development corporation, a non-profit public/private partnership focused on economic development opportunities in Johnson County, is joined by Aspire Johnson County, the Johnson County Public Library system, Central Nine Career Center, WorkOne Franklin and IvyTech Community College’s Franklin branch in promoting the free test to Johnson County residents and employers. Any Johnson County resident can take the test, called the ACT WorkKeys Test, to earn the certificate, Monson said.

People can take the test at any Johnson County Public Library branch, at Central Nine and at WorkOne, although it’s best to reserve ahead of time, Central Nine Adult and Continuing Education Coordinator Gayle Brooks said. Although the test is online, test takers must take it at one of those locations, she said.

Although residents have been able to take the ACT WorkKeys test since 2012, there have been three companies—CGS Services Inc., Fraley and Schilling Inc. and NineStar Connect—that recommended the certificate before this year.

Since Johnson County’s launch as a participating community, 10 more have joined. By the end of next year, the county must meet a goal of 396 employers supporting the certificate in order to become a certified work-ready community. The companies who support the certificate recommend that candidates have it when they apply for jobs, although it is not currently a requirement in the hiring process, Monson said.

“It’s helping them streamline the hiring process,” Monson said of the benefit to employers. “It evaluates employees, it improves retention and puts employees where they will succeed. It helps companies understand what each job really needs, what skills are needed, and helps make things more efficient by putting the right things in the right place.”

ACT also set a goal for Johnson County to have 1,675 certified residents by the end of next year. Currently, 806 residents are certified. If Johnson County became a certified work-ready community, it would be the first in central Indiana to do so, according to ACT.

Reaching these goals is part of a concentrated effort among participating Johnson County organizations to get information about the test to high school students, employers, employees and people who are currently looking for jobs, Brooks said.

“Since kickoff we’ve been really pushing out that information,” Brooks said. “It takes a while to get the test going, (to get) information for the people to test and (to get) people on board.

“It’s a lot of going out to each individual employer and our team is working on that.”

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In order to obtain a national work readiness certificate, test takers must pass three 50-minute assessments as part of the ACT WorkKeys test: graphic literacy, workplace documents and applied math. Test takers who score high enough on the three sections pass the test, and are given a bronze, silver, gold or platinum certificate based on how well they do.

In graphic literacy, test takers are asked to identify information presented in the form of graphs, charts, diagrams and floor plans.

In applied math, test takers are asked to use critical thinking, math and problem-solving techniques related to workplace-based scenarios.

In workplace documents, test takers must solve problems by interpreting documents like messages, emails, signs, policies, contracts and more that are often seen in the workplace.

Source: ACT