The Payne County Workforce Partnership, a collaboration between industry, education, local economic development organizations and the Oklahoma Works office in Payne County is on a journey. Their destination is a framework that positions Payne County for the expansion and attraction of businesses by having a workforce pipeline to meet industry’s needs. They’ll do that through training programs aligned with in-demand skills and the validation of the level of career readiness of individuals in the county.
Their first initiative is teaming up to launch Payne County as an ACT Work Ready Community (WRC). The initiative empowers counties with tools to drive economic growth. Participants use the ACT National Career Readiness Certificate (NCRC) to measure and close the skills gap and to build a common framework to align their workforce development efforts.
Site selectors for companies also have identified the NCRC as a key indicator for making location decisions. In a January 2019 article, Site Selection Magazine reported Oklahoma ranked 29th in their number of NCRCs obtained.
Key to the initiative is individuals who earn and employers that recognize the NCRC. The certificate is a portable credential that identifies an individual’s skill levels in the three areas of reading and comprehending workplace documents such as emails and letters, using applied math, and demonstrated graphic literacy, which includes reading blueprints and flow charts. These areas have been identified as essential foundational skills required for most jobs.
“By achieving certification as an ACT Work Ready Community, a county demonstrates they have a skilled workforce that is valued by local employers,” said Justin Minges, President/CEO of the Stillwater Chamber of Commerce. “Communities also benefit by linking education and workforce development, achieving alignment to economic development and matching people to jobs. That formula benefits all stakeholders in the entrepreneurial ecosystem.”
Research from Oklahoma Works, an initiative coordinated by the Governor’s Council for Workforce and Economic Development, shows that a skills gap exists in the state of Oklahoma. Data from 2016 shows that 46% of Oklahomans had attained a high school diploma as their highest level of education, while 53% of the jobs that will exist in 2025 will require a minimum of an associate’s degree or certification, thus creating a gap in the skill level required for Oklahoma jobs.
Becoming a Work Ready Community is a major initiative to help bridge that gap.
How It Works
Becoming a WRC involves several steps. First, representatives from the Workforce Partnership completed an application and attended the ACT Work Ready Communities Boot Camp in Omaha, Nebraska, prior to launching the initiative.
A county becomes eligible for WRC status when it has met its NCRC and business engagement goals. Payne County doesn’t have far to go, having already achieved 91% of the requirements. After communities achieve their initial certification, they have the opportunity to maintain certification. This ensures they continue measuring, certifying and improving the skill level of its workforce.
One of the engagement goals is the number of companies recognizing and supporting the NCRC when interviewing candidates or training staff. Companies can complete an online form acknowledging they are aware of and recognize the value in the NCRC credential held by employees and applicants. Companies and organizations in the area that currently recognize the NCRC include Central Electric Cooperative, Simmons Bank, the Cushing Industrial Authority, ProValue.net and Lambert Construction Company.
Payne County will be the second county in Oklahoma designated an ACT Work Ready Community once the status is reached. Payne County Workforce Partnership has the support of several municipalities as shown by recent resolutions from the cities of Cushing, Perkins, Glencoe and Stillwater.
“With Governor Stitt’s goal to make Oklahoma a top ten state in Workforce, this is the perfect time to recognize and launch Payne County’s efforts to become an ACT Work Ready Community,” said Bruce Johnson, Director of the Cushing Economic Development Foundation. “The Governor’s Oklahoma Workforce Committee’s recent report provides a strategic framework and is focused on helping local businesses by training and supplying the modern-day workforce. That focus aligns well with the Work Ready Communities initiative.”
Rebecca Eastham, Executive Director of Business and Industry Services at Meridian Technology Center, a CareerTech school in Stillwater added, “Training a skilled workforce is in the CareerTech mission. When educators, businesses and economic developers partner together, everyone wins.”
About Work Ready Communities
More information on ACT Work Ready Communities can be found at workreadycommunities.org. Businesses that would like to indicate they recognize the NCRC in hiring employees can go to workreadycommunities.org/business/form. To learn about ways to use the NCRC with current staff or more about the initiative contact Rebecca Eastham at Meridian Technology Center at 405.377.3333.
By participating in ACT’s Work Ready Communities initiative, counties are helping:
Partners in the Work Ready Community Launch