Training Industry

Workforce Development

  • New ACT Initiative Forming Groups that will Allow Companies to Make Use of National Career Readiness Certification at No Cost

Tomorrow’s Workforce Now is a new initiative from ACT announced in April 2012 that is geared specifically toward helping employers identify and develop their current and future employee talent. The initiative is being supported by a coalition of community colleges along with the support of the American Association of Community Colleges and California Community Colleges. 

Providing Free Access to Evidence-based NCRC Certification for 20 Individuals Per Employer

A key component of Tomorrow’s Workforce Now is that it is providing companies with free access to ACT’s National Career Readiness Certificate (NCRC) Plus to assess 20 individuals per employer.  NCRC Plus is is an evidence-based credential that certifies essential skills needed for workplace success. Individuals earn the NCRC Plus by taking four of the ACT WorkKeys Assessments: applied mathematics, locating information, reading for information and a “Talent” assessment that measures an individual’s work-related attitudes and behaviors.   

Employers interested in taking advantage of the program must be part of a group convened by a community college partner (or a regional or community group). These potential community college partners, called “local champions,” are currently in the process of sending in applications to be considered for acceptance into the program, and applications are being accepted up through the end of 2012. 

The basic requirement for a community college group to get accepted into the Tomorrow’s Workforce Now program includes having approximately 20 employers and/or other local partners such as a workforce agency in the group who are not actively using the NCRC Plus.  In addition, the community college must play an organizational role by administering the WorkKeys Assessments within 180 days or less of their start dates. It is also noted that “special circumstances will be considered” during the application process.

About ACT’s Workforce Development Solutions

ACT is a non-profit organization that has always been known primarily for its college admissions test system that began in the 1950s, but ACT also has a substantial workforce development division that has been growing since they started to collect and analyze data based on those admissions tests, and more, over the past three decades.

According to Martin Scaglione, president of the ACT Workforce Development Division, ACT has also conducted extensive research on jobs, resulting in a robust occupational profiles database. This research has also enabled ACT to understand and clarify what essential skills incumbent employees and job candidates need to be successful.

The Tomorrow’s Workforce Now initiative “is all about using skills-based hiring methodologies” that have been created and fine tuned through research and data analysis, says Scaglione. “What we discovered in our research is that we had this huge skills gap, and employers were screaming that they could not find people. But these same employers did not have a solution. We created a system for them that is a selection process, which, at the very least, solidifies in a better way the predictive performance of an individual.”

First Step is to Really Understand Skills Needed

One of the first steps in a skills-based hiring process requires that employers clearly define the level of skills they are seeking for any given position. “With Tomorrow’s Workforce Now we explain to employers that they must get a better understanding of what their jobs are all about, get their job descriptions tighter and understand what skills are really necessary to do the job right,” Scaglione says.  It is from that baseline that the employers in the program, under the administration of the community college group they are involved with, can have 20 incumbent and/or new job candidates complete the NCRC Plus process.

Benefits to Employers

As noted in an April 11, 2012 press release, “in return, employers will gain valuable, evidence-based data about the assessed individuals and will have access to an insider’s view of national research correlating to job performance by occupation. The research is designed to help employers make accurate hiring and promotion decisions, thereby reducing turnover and decreasing time and costs, resulting in positive effects on their organization’s bottom line.”

Scaglione adds that employers in the program will “hire people based on a better match,” resulting in “higher productivity, lower turnover and higher retention.”

ACT’s Grand Plan

While the results of Tomorrow’s Workforce Now remain to be seen, it is definitely part of ACT’s overall goal to create a national credentialing system, with community colleges playing a central role in its development. Jon Whitmore, ACT’s CEO, writes in the Spring 2011 issue of the Trustee Quarterly, published by the Association of Community College Trustees, in an article titled “A Demand-Driven System,” that “we need a more tightly aligned demand-driven system reflecting the specific skills that employers need and want. While we have recognized that standardized systems of degrees or credentials are essential, we have not, as a nation, had clear discussions about foundational skills or come to any conclusions about what competencies are important and why.”  Whitmore adds that the ACT NCRC can provide “a critical foundational layer” for a national credentialing system.

And Scaglione enthusiastically proclaims that “we will gather the data points, and we are going to skill up America.” 

Written for TrainingIndustry.com

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