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Community leaders commit to focus on workforce readiness
In March 5 Issue
By John Thompson
News-Register Reporter

Recently Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday called on public school superintendents and boards of education to sign a pledge to improve college and career readiness in their high schools.

A capable and willing workforce is vital to a community's prosperity. It is one of the first and major items a potential industry looks at in choosing a location for their operation. As such, local leaders are focusing on increasing the rate of college and career readiness of Russell County's workforce.

At Monday's meeting of the Russell County School Board, Superintendent Kenny Pickett and board members signed a pledge to increase the current 36 percent college readiness rate in Russell County to a 68 percent by the year 2015, in following with Holliday's request. The state average is 34 percent.

"College and career readiness is one of the most critical issues in Kentucky," said Holliday. "The very future of Kentucky's economy depends on our ability to prepare students for college and careers. We must not let our students down."

Russell County Industrial Development Authority Executive Director Gene Royalty and Adult Education Director at the Russell County Learning Center Rodney Johnson announced at Monday's monthly meeting of the Industrial Development Board that a meeting would take place on Wednesday with human resource directors from the largest industries in Russell County to address their problems and concerns with workforce readiness in Russell County.

At the meeting there was a saying that 80 percent of success is showing up.

Incredibly this is one of the major obstacles faced by local industries when hiring new people. As an H.R. representative said, that among an alarming number of recent hires, they "honestly believe its okay. if they don't come to work and that people should understand that."

Another concern was what was termed "job hoppers," as one relayed a story of a recent applicant who over the course of over a year had 23 different jobs, holding on to each job an average of two weeks. Still another concern was an alarming number of applicants who fail drug screenings, with one representative stating that four out of the last five potential new hires had failed the drug test.

But the majority of the difficulty facing industry in Russell County, and by the account of Kentucky Adult Education Program Support Associate Billy Crabtree and the 13 county Lake Cumberland Area Development District Workforce Director Daryl McGaha these concerns are being faced by region and statewide, is a good work ethic.

"If you're willing we can teach you anything in this shop," said one H.R. rep. "I cannot teach you how to set your alarm."

To deal with these issues, as well as academic preparedness for the workplace or college, the Adult Education Center has developed a program "Ready 4 Work."

The program integrates the National Career Readiness Certificate training with work ethic training. By earning a National Career Readiness Certificate, individuals can demonstrate that they possess key foundational job skills that are needed for virtually every job. This gives the job seeker an advantage when applying for jobs, a complement to a diploma and resume. For employees already on the job, a certificate can demonstrate skills needed for a promotion or for training that leads to greater productivity and effectiveness.

The Ready 4 Work program, currently a six day commitment that is being reworked to a five day, 40 hour commitment, focuses on all things vital to both a competent and willing workforce with a good work ethic. Topics such as:

"    Communicating with co-workers and supervisors

"    Proper reading of forms, charts, graphs, and data

"    Following directions

"    Understanding what is expected as an employee

"    Safety

"    Resumes and Interviews

As well as basic reading comprehension, math skills and measurement reading one is likely to face in many workplace settings.

The Human Resource representatives of some of the major local industries said they would be more inclined to hire applicants who had completed the NCRC or Ready 4 Work programs, citing good results from past experience. All were either able to commit to or could say they would give preference to giving interviews to such applicants.

According to Royalty there are approximately 180 industrial use buildings sitting empty in Kentucky, and Russell County has two of them, both of excellent quality. The former Hitachi building itself is available at about half what it would cost to build new but we face competition from other areas with similar or better deals.

Jamestown recently increased water treatment plant capacity from 1.8 million gallons a day to 6 million gallons a day, with 8 million possible with some modification. Many other aspects of Russell County are attractive to prospective industries from around the world. And while Russell County's 36 percent workforce readiness does beat out the 34 percent state average, there's room for improvement.

Manufacturing jobs in Russell County have been rebounding of late from a low point of 1,700 employed in June 2010, down from a high of 2,100 in 2007. Currently manufacturing employs about 1,900 in Russell County from the employee base of Russell and surrounding counties.

Johnson is working with the leading industries, and encourages all employers to evaluate the NCRC and Ready 4 Work program offered by the Adult Education Center, to produce and maintain a viable workforce in Russell County.

To learn more about the Ready 4 Work program contact the Russell County Learning Center at 270-866-8836. To find out how the National Career Readiness Certificate can help provide the essential foundational skills needed in the workplace, or if you are an employer interested in higher quality employee prospects, visit

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