Local businesses and individuals are working to make Livingston County a Certified Work Ready Community to assist with economic development efforts. The movement is part of a national effort led by ACT (the same company that produces the ACT test for high school students) to provide a framework for states, regions and communities to build an economic development, community-based approach grounded in certifying counties as Work Ready. Certification will be awarded when counties achieve goals of individuals in the workforce earning a National Career Readiness Certificate and businesses recognizing, preferring or recommending the NCRC. A county becomes eligible for CWRC status when it has met its NCRC and business engagement common criteria goals. The CWRC recognition means a county has a system in place to provide employers irrefutable data that it can deliver a quality workforce with the skills employers need, according to Matt Trussell, director of the Northwest Missouri State University’s Small Business and Technology Development Center in Chillicothe. “It shows that we believe in Livingston County and want to support Livingston County in becoming a Work Ready Community,” Trussell said. The information can be used by prospective businesses to see that counties have a readily available labor force to utilize. The Work Ready Community certification is a fairly new program. If successfully completed, Livingston County could be among the first 50 counties in the country to become certified. Several Missouri counties are already certified. Trussell encourages business to complete a short form online to help meet the goal. The form can also be sent to business representatives that would rather complete the forms off-line. There is no obligation or cost involved by participating. The criteria for becoming a Work Ready Certified county include: Emerging, transitioning, current workforce, and business support. The emerging workforce consists of high school juniors and seniors, college students (can be technical, vocational, community college or four-year college programs), and recent graduates (within the last 12 months). Transitioning workforce means currently unemployed or currently participating in an adult education or GED program (or recent completed within the last 12 months). Current workforce means currently employed in either the private or public sector. Information about recent veterans (discharged within the last 12 months) is also captured; veterans will be counted in the transitioning workforce category. A business can indicate its support by signing up on the WRC website. In order for a business to be counted as one whole business, it must have at least five employees at a physical location in the county in question. If a business has greater than 100 employees, it may also count toward the goals for the surrounding counties. For businesses with less than five employees, four (4) will count as one whole business to be applied toward county goals. Anyone authorized to act on the business' behalf can visit the WRC website and fill out the online form indicating their support. There are many benefits to becoming a Work Ready Community, Trussell said. Communities use a data-driven approach to demonstrate they have a skilled workforce that is valued by their local industry and a workforce development system in place that links education and workforce development together, aligns to economic development, and matches people to jobs based on skill levels. Many groups benefit when their states, counties, or regions join the ACT Work Ready Communities initiative, according to Trussell. Businesses and industries can learn exactly what foundational skills are needed for a productive workforce and can easily communicate their needs to job seekers. Individuals can understand what skills employers require and how to prepare for career success. Policymakers can consistently measure skills gaps in a timely manner at the national, state, and local levels. Educators can close skills gaps via tools integrated into career pathways with stackable, industry recognized credentials. Economic developers can use an on-demand reporting tool to market the quality of their workforce. Livingston County’s deadline is July 2015. “At the end of April, we had 65 percent of the of goals attained,” Trussell said. Those who would like to keep up with the county’s current progress, may do so online at www.workreadycommunities.org/MO/117. If you have questions or would like more information about the Certified Work Ready Community program, contact Matt Trussell at 660-646-6920 or by email at mtruss@nwmissouri.edu.