ACT Workkeys: Another tool to get Washington County students workforce-ready

Jessica Fuller • Jan 17, 2019 at 11:22 AM

Not every student that makes their way through Washington County schools will choose college after graduation. 

One of the focuses of the department has been getting those students workforce ready. A standardized test known as the ACT Workkeys Assessment is a method teachers across the county use to equip students headed into the workforce after graduation. 

The test is administered by the same company that provides the ACT standardized test that more than a million high schoolers take each year. According to the ACT website, the goal of the Workkeys assessment is to provide students entering the workforce right out of high school with a special certificate that will help them get hired. 

Students taking the exam are tested in different skills, including applied mathm interpreting workplace documents and graphic literacy. Daniel Boone High School Career Technical Education teacher Crystal Fink described the assessment as tasks like calculating correct change and ability to read and interpret graphs and user manuals.

“Assessments are based on every-day scenarios,” Fink said. “We want to make an opportunity for our students who are ready to go right into the workforce.”

Students are scored at one of four levels: platinum (Level 6), gold (Level 5), silver (Level 4) and bronze (Level 3). After that, students possess a National Career Readiness Certificate that will aid them as the search for work begins. 

The scores applied to the certificate can help employers find workers and, on the other side of the coin, help students find work. For example, an employer could be looking for an employee with a score of level 4 or higher on the NCRC, and those with the certificate level 4 or higher get a boost in the job-searching process.

So far, 45 employers in Washington County recognize and recommend these certificates, and more than 23,000 employers recognize the certificate nationwide. Fink reported that 113 Boone students took the exam in November. Thirty-three students attained platinum level, 30 scored at the gold level, 33 earned silver level and 17 students scored bronze level. 

At David Crockett High School, 29 students took the exam with seven students getting platinum results, nine got gold and six received silver and bronze each.

Participating local employers include Nuclear Fuel Services, Bristol Regional Medical Center, the Johnson City/Washington County Chamber of Commerce and the East Tennessee State University Center for Community Outreach and Applied Research. Since the certificate can be translated on a national level, the exam can aid students who wish to stay in the area in addition to students who plan to move elsewhere. 

“We want (students) to understand that there’s a little substance to this,” Fink said. 

The ACT Work Ready Communities Website rates Washington County at 70 percent of the goals to be a work-ready community, according to data that was updated on Dec. 31. To learn more about ACT Work Ready Communities, visit workreadycommunities.org. 

Follow Jessica Fuller on Twitter @fullerjf91. Like her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/jfullerJCP.

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