"Kentucky has the most rigorous certification program in the nation to allow communities to demonstrate their workforce quality. This is an opportunity to differentiate our county and help Kentucky compete to attract jobs now and in the future.
The criteria include high school graduation rates, National Career Readiness Certificate holders, community commitment, educational attainment, soft skills development and Internet availability." from website Workready.ky.gov
Work Ready Communities is the latest buzz around the Commonwealth for economic development and job creation. The step by step path to certification is the newest program sponsored by the Kentucky Economic Development and an alphabet of agencies, (see end of story for list.)
According to the workready.ky.gov website:
"A Kentucky Work Ready Community certification is a measure of a county's workforce quality. It is an assurance to business and industry that the community is committed to providing the highly-skilled workforce required in today's competitive global economy."
Counties begin the process by forming a committee that then forms subcommittees. Community involvement by business, industry and educational leaders is essential. Statistical data is gathered and a letter of intent is sent to the Cabinet. Applicants are measured on the size of the available work force, educational attainment and access to high speed internet and other criteria.
As the Kentucky map shows, a smattering of counties have reached work ready status. Others are in progress or have submitted letters of intent to begin the process.
Applicants have three years to become certified for a two year period.
The program has no application fee and no guarantee of industry at the end. But, as one local county judge told us, work ready is a way to involvement by all stakeholders. The benefits of a large number of people working toward the same goal is perhaps the greatest benefit of the program.
The program offers no incentives outside of assurances that employers look for work ready communities. As of this writing, we can find no statistical data showing the program is working - or not. With only a few counties certified and those in areas of relatively robust economies, tangible results are elusive.
The pressure to get certification is growing as more counties become certified or at least are designated "in process." The benefit of becoming a Work Ready Community may be that the county next door isn't as far along in the process - or isn't in the game at all.
Peer pressure as an economic development - job creation tool may be a spur to get communities focused on the strengths and weaknesses unique to them. The website urges "creativity" in preparing an application. It is difficult to see what degree of creativity will overcome a lack of internet access, an aging undereducated population or a graduation rate that will take more than three years to reach goal.
It will be the task of state administrators to show that Work Ready means that work, i.e. employers, are ready to move into areas making an effort to achieve the certification.
A panel of experts representing each of ten stakeholder groups is appointed by the Kentucky Workforce Investment Board to review each application for Work Ready and Work Ready in Progress status. This panel makes recommendations to the board for certification.
|Kentucky Workforce Investment Board
||Roxann Fry (Chair)
|Kentucky Chamber of Commerce Executives
|Kentucky Association of Counties
|Kentucky Community and Technical College System
|Kentucky Department of Education
|Cabinet for Economic Development
|Kentucky Adult Education
|Kentucky Labor Cabinet
|Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet