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Workforce: a key to business success

Graphics | January 1, 2011 | By:

Whether you run a one-person shop or a multi-national corporation, your workforce is a major key to your success.

At our most recent county workforce investment board meeting, I heard a report by a major package delivery firm about a training grant they received from the Federal Government. The company established this program to ensure that it would have a workforce capable of growing the company after the Baby Boomers leave the workforce. The next generation is not technically trained en masse to bring the company to the next level in global marketplace competition, and this company is having a 30-percent rejection rate of new applicants seeking employment. It seeks to reduce this number, and, from my perspective, we as a nation must do the same and cannot afford to waste any talent.

We have fewer people coming into the workplace than are leaving. Those that will be available are not technically trained to meet our needs. So where do we start? The finger is pointed at education, but I think the key is to seek commonality with education in understanding what is being taught and how it relates to students being ready for higher education and the workforce.

For the most part, agencies attempting to assist industry in job training programs are going after specific jobs, with limited dollars for a specific period of time. All well and good, but if individuals do not have the basic core skills offered by education, anything that follows is doomed to fail. Additionally, there is a breakdown in soft skills. If those skills are not measured before spending dollars on specific job training programs, we end up with high “wash out” rates of new trainees.

I am high on core skills assessment and training. If you know a job’s specific core skills requirements, and you know what a new hire has to offer, and you’ve done a soft skills assessment, then you are ensuring success and shortening the time from initial contact to full speed implementation of that individual into a job.

Fifteen years ago, ACT developed a program called WorkKeys, an assessment tool of core skills derived from 50-plus years of statistics gleaned from its college testing system. Through ACT’s research, it determined that some level of accomplishment in three assessments of math, reading for information, and locating Information, formed the basis of need in most job functions. The application of this data through the National Career Readiness Certificate (NCRC) provides employers with a measuring tool far better than a report card, a resume or references based on past job experience.

The NCRC by itself is only half of the solution. It provides a document that tells you exactly what an individual offers you, and is verifiable through ACT’s national database. However, it really means nothing unless you can connect its value to your need.

ACT has thousands of job profiles available on its website for review. These profiles explain what skill levels are required for positions such as sewing machine operator, welder, assembler and graphic designer, as examples. To be specific to your need, you may consider profiling your own job.

Let’s say there’s a job applicant presenting you with a certificate of their core competencies, and you know what the core competencies of the job are. Is there a match? If so, you may add this information to information provided through other tests and make your hiring decision.

What if one of the core skills offered is less than your need but other indicators show competency in the individual? We then introduce a core skills training program, KeyTrain. This individualized and targeted approach to skills training teaches the very same core skills that WorkKeys assessments measure. KeyTrain may be offered at a local community college or through other community programs. It is a proven skill-building tool that can be used in schools to prepare students in development programs to close skill gaps or even as part of an after-hire training program you create.

ACT offers three WorkKeys tools to assess soft skills. Through assessments in fit, talent and performance, you can determine if the individual will meet your need. For a nominal license fee, you can test in house and have the results back from ACT in minutes.

NCRC and other state programs adapting the ACT WorkKeys standards are currently in use in 35 states and are being promoted as becoming a national program within five years. We cannot waste our human resources, and this program offers a viable solution to solving the impending skilled worker shortage problem.

Pat Hayes is founder and chairman of Fabric Images, Elgin, Ill., a member of the Fabric Graphics Association and a director on the board of the Industrial Fabrics Association International.

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