Sunday, April 20, 2014

New program helps employers gauge potential workers’ skills

1/6/2014

A movement is afoot in Kansas to broaden the scope of education after high school to include career and technical skills. Such an expansion would move beyond just vocational education to include soft skills.

Locally, that effort includes a WorkKeys program to help employers connect with potential employees who earn ACT WorkKeys certification based on work discipline, teamwork capabilities, customer service orientation and even managerial potential, among other factors. Those are valuable assets for an employer when trying to make a decision between two candidates who are equally qualified on paper. They are particularly useful in identifying possible entry-level employees who might have little real-world work history available as a gauge of their performance potential. Selecting the right candidate up-front means the world to an employer so the business can invest in training and developing an individual that it can retain too.

A movement is afoot in Kansas to broaden the scope of education after high school to include career and technical skills. Such an expansion would move beyond just vocational education to include soft skills.

Locally, that effort includes a WorkKeys program to help employers connect with potential employees who earn ACT WorkKeys certification based on work discipline, teamwork capabilities, customer service orientation and even managerial potential, among other factors. Those are valuable assets for an employer when trying to make a decision between two candidates who are equally qualified on paper. They are particularly useful in identifying possible entry-level employees who might have little real-world work history available as a gauge of their performance potential. Selecting the right candidate up-front means the world to an employer so the business can invest in training and developing an individual that it can retain too.

The WorkKeys program can give local high school graduates an advantage compared to other job seekers because employers can count on the school district to have taken some of the guesswork out of the hiring practice by doing the necessary testing to ensure credentialed potential employees deliver with real-world skills that translate into a successful performer in the workplace. This is a different way of measuring a student’s career readiness because it examines three important areas: applied mathematics, ability to locate information and reading for information. This isn’t as much about how someone performed on a rote test, but instead based on someone’s ability to locate, read and apply information in the workplace — also known as problem-solving.

At a time when even college graduates aren’t finishing school with the education they think they need to get the job they want, a reassessment definitely is in order. The state of Kansas put special emphasis on Career and Technical education with free tuition for students to enroll in technical education classes at community colleges, while they still are in high school. The state’s KansasWorks program offers a parallel statewide credentialing program for employers and job seekers to logically work in tandem with the schools.

The WorkKeys job assessment program, which is part of the college-testing ACT system, measures both foundational skills and the ever-important soft skills, such as tolerance, communication, attitude, interpersonal skills and dependability, that so many entry-level job seekers lack.

Today’s global marketplace demands job seekers leave school career-ready regardless of the career path they desire. The WorkKeys program, being considered by Ottawa schools and other districts, is a uniform and progressive path for the mutual benefit of students, schools and employers.

 

— Jeanny Sharp,

editor and publisher

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