Lexington County earns Work Ready Communities status

(ColaDaily.com) Lexington County has earned a new certification that could make finding a job and bringing new investment to the area easier.

The county is among the newest batch of South Carolina counties that earned Work Ready Communities status last week along with Barnwell, Chesterfield, Darlington, Dillon, Lee and Marion counties. More than half of the counties in South Carolina are certified.

“We are well on our way to becoming the nation’s first certified work-ready state, and that is a huge reason to celebrate in every part of South Carolina,” said Gov. Nikki Haley. “This is a perfect example of Team South Carolina coming together to prove how committed we are to training a highly skilled workforce.”

Work Ready Communities, an initiative driven by national testing and workforce readiness organization ACT, is designed to increase a region’s economic competitiveness.

Lexington County achieved work-ready status by meeting goals that included having students and job seekers take the National Career Readiness Certificate to determine skill levels and having businesses commit to recognizing the National Career Readiness Certificate when looking for new hires. The county already has surpassed the goal of having 140 supporting businesses.

People can earn certification by taking three WorkKeys assessments, which measure real-world skills. Once completed, the National Career Readiness Certification gives employers from around the country an easy-to-understand picture of an employee’s attributes and abilities.

Education officials at county schools and Midlands Technical College were key stakeholders throughout the Work Ready Communities certification process and encouraged students to assess their skills through WorkKeys. Lexington School District Two has served as a WorkKeys testing site for 10 years.

“All adult-education students are encouraged to earn a WorkKeys Career Readiness certificate in addition to a high school credential while in the program,” Superintendent-elect Tom Siler said. “These two credentials increase their competitiveness in the work force and in post-secondary training.”

Barrie Kirk, vice president for Midlands Technical College’s Corporate and Continuing Education and Economic Development, said Midlands Tech promoted WorkKeys long before the Work Ready Communities initiative began to gather steam.

“MTC’s history and strong involvement with WorkKeys played an instrumental part in this achievement,” she said.

Some credit the establishment of a skilled workforce in the county with helping economic development officials recruit new investment effectively.

“Earning Work Ready certification (gives) the county a competitiveness advantage in attracting business and industry as it demonstrates our ability to provide qualified workers to meet their staffing needs,” said Randy Halfacre, president and CEO of the Greater Lexington Chamber.

“In essence, it’s like putting out a sign for businesses looking to locate or expand in our region that says ‘We’re open for business,’ ” Kirk said. “This designation means that Lexington County has the workforce with the skills needed for any organization to hit the ground running. These jobs are the future for our MTC students.”

Halfacre said he thinks the county will be a front-runner especially for advanced manufacturing jobs.

“We will be able to supply the people who have the skills to work in those types of industry environments,” he said.

Kirk said Midlands Tech will continue working with businesses and community partners to increase the usage of WorkKeys.

South Carolina now has 29 counties that have earned Work Ready Communities certification, which is more than any other state in the nation. Richland County is close to becoming certified with 93 percent of goals attained.

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