Fairfield County has the opportunity to participate in a pilot program work readiness initiative in conjunction with the Department of Employment and Workforce and ACT, the company who originally developed college entrance exams and created the WorkKeys program.
South Carolina is one of four pilot states in the nation to participate in the community-based workforce development initiative.
At the request of Fairfield County Administrator Phil Hinely, Fairfield County Director of Economic Development Tiffany Harrison gave a presentation on this pilot program to Fairfield County Council at the Sept. 10 meeting.
The work force development initiative program the WorkKeys assessment tool to help economic development leaders better understand local workforce demographics.
Three populations are targeted for increased participation in WorkKeys training:
1. The emerging work force, including high school juniors and seniors and recent college graduates
2. The transitional work force, including the unemployed and adult education participants
3. The current work force, including those employed by the public or by the private sector
Job seekers in these groups can take a series of evaluations in mathematics, writing, mechanical aptitude and more.
The person’s score gets equated to a color, such as gold, and that kind of color is matched to particular jobs, like manufacturing positions.
County council chairman David Ferguson noted that the county had been using WorkKeys to evaluate its employees for a while now and he believed that participating in a program to advance WorkKeys would be beneficial.
Goals of the work readiness initiative include increasing the number of businesses doing WorkKeys profiles and establishing the skills required for in-depth assessment so that job seekers can be better matched to job opportunities.
Harrison said that a statewide inventory of skills sets would be a strong tool for employers and employees alike to help meet our state’s employment needs.
Persons in South Carolina not only would better understand the skills set necessary to be employable, but they also would be able to acquire nationally recognized credentials through the WorkKeys program.
Harrison said the state would benefit from having a unified approach to helping job seekers. Businesses would benefit from improved hiring procedures, reducing training costs, and increased performance and productivity.
For individuals this program would increase their employability and confirm that an employee is ready for filling a position.
Time is of the essence. The program begins Oct. 1 and within 45 days Fairfield County would have to participate in the roil out of the initiative.
County council also would have to identify an industry champion to represent the county.
Provided the county chose to participate, it would be impacted by a steering committee comprised of representatives from workforce and economic development, business and chambers of commerce that would help make the pilot program become a reality in South Carolina.
“If Fairfield County chooses to participate, our goal is WorkKeys access to an additional 55 persons in the emerging workforce, 222 transitional workers and 16 persons within the current workforce,” Harrison said.
Another goal is producing 17 profiles across business and industry which would help job seekers find the best match for their skills set.
Currently there is $900,000 in state funding for implementing this program and the WorkKeys component.
Harrison was not certain, but thought the state funding was available on a first come, first serve basis.
She described participation in the initiative as a win-win for the county and for industry.
“At this time there is no cost specific to participating and there are grant funds available if we get in on the front end of this program,” Harrison said.
The Midlands Education and Business Alliance (MEBA) that connects businesses, communities and education systems in Fairfield, Lexington and Richland counties also is in favor of the program.
County council voted unanimously to proceed with participation in the work readiness initiative.
For its part in the process, county council would choose the designated industry champion.
The county also would work closely with the workforce assessment board while the assessments and industry profiles are being developed.