State offers new job skills exam

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 25, 2010

NATCHEZ — Mississippi is now utilizing a new program to test and screen potential workers.

Mary Allen from the Central Mississippi Planning and Development District spoke Tuesday morning to local business people about the career readiness certificate program used to test potential workers.

Allen was one of three speakers who took part in the first Business over Breakfast meetings sponsored by Natchez, Inc., and the Natchez-Adams Chamber of Commerce.

Email newsletter signup

The career readiness certificate tests basic math, reading for information and locating information skills of individuals. The results of the test give employers an idea of the probability that a potential employee can adequately fill a position, Allen said.

“Before this test, all an interviewer at the WIN Job Center could do was take a person’s word that the possessed the skills they said they did,” Allen said. “At times, we’d refer someone to a job and then that employer would come back and say ‘Why did you send that person to me?’

“This is an additional tool we can utilize to see if someone does have the skills.”

The test for the nationally recognized certificate is given locally at the WIN Job Center. It does not test for specific skills, Allen said, but she said employers can be confident of a person’s ability to learn skills if they have earned the career readiness certificate.

Test makers profiled more than 16,000 occupations to determine the skills needed to be successful.

Passing scores are given on three levels — gold, silver and bronze.

Allen said someone passing the test at a bronze level would likely be successful at 30 percent of the jobs profiled by the test. A silver level certificate indicates a worker would be successful at 65 percent of the jobs profiled, and a gold level certificate holder would be successful at 90 percent of the jobs profiled by the test creators.

Angela Berch, workforce development coordinator at Copiah-Lincoln Community College said since the job market has declined, employers use the career readiness certificate program to pick the most capable workers.

“Georgia Gulf has been hiring a lot recently,” Berch said. “Since jobs are so sought after now, they have set a level of achievement that is needed on the career readiness certificate to qualify for the jobs. That way they get the most qualified candidates.”

Berch said the function of the Workforce Development Center is to work with employers and employees to offer training and educational opportunities.

The center is based on the Co-Lin Wesson campus, but serves all Co-Lin campuses.

In the past, the center has offered AED training and continues to offer customer service training on the first and third Wednesdays of each month, but Berch said she needs help from the business community to know what types of classes are most useful to Natchez.

She said once the need is pinpointed she can utilize her resources to offer training.

“I can work with you to hopefully bring a course to you at no cost,” Berch said. “I can help bring in instructors for classes, but I need to know what your employees need.

“I really want workforce education to have a strong presence here.”

Marsha Hamilton, manager of the global division of the Mississippi Development Authority also spoke during the hour-long meeting.

Hamilton spoke about recruiting international and national businesses to Mississippi.

She said the state has seen success recently in attracting aerospace and steel companies.

She also said one of the functions of the global division of MDA is to promote international trade of goods produced in Mississippi.

“Our job is to access a company and see if they have a product that is exportable,” she said. “We also, at times, have to tell a company that they do not have product that would be competitive in an international market.”