Career Readiness Certification gives employees an edge in workforce, officials say

A partnership between the Department of Workforce Services and the University of Arkansas Community College at Batesville has provided a path for job-seekers to earn a certification that will give them a competitive edge in the workforce.

Arkansas joined more than 20 states that implemented the ACT WorkKeys® Assessment System as part of a certificate or workforce development program according to employer guide brochure for the Arkansas Career Readiness Certificate. The WorkKeys® assessment tests potential employees’ skills in three main areas – Applied Math, Graphic Literacy and Work Place Documents.

“The certification tells the employer immediately if the candidate has the basic skills necessary for most jobs such as computer literacy. Those who earn the certification take a three-hour pre-test before taking the three-hour assessment for the certification, so it also shows the candidate is committed to putting in the effort to obtain certification,” said Mary Qualls, veterans representative with the Department of Workforce Services.

Ben Baxter, manager with the Department of Workforce Services, said candidates take the KeyTrain® pre-test at the DWS office before advancing to the WorkKeys® assessment test, which is offered through the testing center at UACCB.

“Candidates must make a certain score on the pre-test before we refer them to the testing center at UACCB,” Baxter said.

For those who need assistance obtaining the minimum pre-test score, instruction is available through the Adult Education Center at UACCB according to Nancy Whitmire, director of adult education. Whitmire noted that no additional funding is received by DWS or UACCB to be able to offer the certification. “We collaborate and make efficient use of our current funding to be able to offer this as a benefit to employees,” Whitmire said.

Sherrie Stagner, testing center coordinator at UACCB, said the center has proctored 1,311 CRC tests as of April 5, 2018. The center began offering the test in 2009.

Baxter noted that several employers across the state now require the CRC. “Several employers in Jonesboro and Searcy require potential employees to have the certification. FutureFuel requires it for many of their positions, and White River Medical Center considers it a preference for employees to obtain the certification,” he said.

Stacy Gunderman, director of administration with FutureFuel, said that applicants who have achieved the certification are more likely to be successful completing the rigorous training modules required of employees. “It takes about two years to become a fully-trained chemical operator. That investment in an applicant is expensive and time consuming. We want to do everything we can to ensure their success in the program,” she said. “Pre-employment testing has raised the success rate of incoming employees and reduced the cost of training employees who would not be successful in our operations training programs. This in turn has increased our employee retention rate and employee satisfaction. Using the CRC testing criteria has saved us approximately $5,000 per year versus when we were conducting the testing in-house. Our partnership with the Department of Workforce Services and UACCB is an incredible asset to our hiring process.”