{&by1JC}By Johnson City Press Editorial Board{/bylineJC}

{&by2JC}

As We See It

Local leaders will have an opportunity Monday to put their money where their mouths are when it comes to seeing that Washington County earns a “Work Ready Community” certification.

County Commissioners are being asked to earmark as much as $3,000 in funding to the First Tennessee Development District to cover the cost of work ready tests for participants of the program who can’t afford the $75 fee.

The FTDD is working with the eight counties it serves in Northeast Tennessee to help them become ACT Work Ready Communities. It is a credential that job seekers can use to prove their skills to companies that insist on hiring only the best qualified employees. Sullivan and Hawkins counties are the first counties in Northeast Tennessee to receive the work ready community certification.

Lottie Ryans, who heads FTDD’s workforce and literacy programs, says Washington County is at 91% of reaching its goals to becoming a work ready community. She told members of the county’s Health, Education and Welfare Committee earlier this month she needs their help in clearing the final hurdle to obtaining that certification.

She suggested by helping to offset the cost of the tests, the county could entice the 40 students who are needed to take the test for it to obtain the workforce certification.

HEW committee members have also pledged to recruit as many as 10 local companies to show support for the work ready community program.

Ryans said only a handful of Tennessee’s 95 counties are now designated as a work ready community. She said earning the designation would give Washington County and other localities “an edge” in luring prospective employers to the region.

To earn the work ready certification, students are tested on being able to comprehend workplace documents, graphic literacy and applied math.

In the process, students can earn a bronze, silver, gold or platinum certification. Platinum is the highest, which is also the level Eastman Chemical Co. requires to apply for a job at its facility.

Spending up to $3,000 to help students take the tests that will allow Washington County to earn this valuable work ready certification doesn’t seem to be too much to ask. It is indeed a worthy investment in workforce development.