Miss-Lou becomes first certified multi-state Work Ready region

Published 12:23 am Sunday, May 14, 2017


NATCHEZ — Adams County and Concordia Parish have become the first multi-state certified Work Ready Region.

Adams County became the first Mississippi county in September to become American Council on Testing officially certified Work Ready Community, and Natchez Inc. announced last week Concordia Parish had become certified.

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The Miss-Lou region meeting the goals to be an ACT Work Ready community shows the spirit of teamwork and commitment the two communities have to each other, Alcorn State University’s Special Assistant to the President for Community and Economic Development Ruth Nichols said.

“Obviously, we recognize that when the workforce improves, everything improves,” Nichols said. “Even as we celebrate the hard work and dedication that it has taken to reach this national benchmark, we are looking forward to not only sustaining but to surpassing this point in our campaign for workforce excellence.

“New goals will continue to be set and met, and the current and future citizens of our community, our region and our states will enjoy the benefits for generations to come.”

The certification enables communities to identify skill gaps and also allows educators to build career pathways that are aligned to the needs of the community’s business and industry.

Nichols and other community leaders in Adams County and Concordia Parish have been working for more than a year to become certified as a Work Ready Community.

Work Ready Certified Community status helps employees know what their strengths and weaknesses are, and helps employers better place new hires based on what they can demonstrably do. The status is also something industrial prospects consider when evaluating the area.

The certification for the region is based on individuals within the workforce, including graduating high school students, earning a National Career Readiness Certificate and the number of employers recognizing the NCRC — a nationally recognized credential — in their hiring process.

“Achieving this goal proves that the Miss-Lou is committed to changing our workforce development program,” Concordia Economic Development Director Heather Malone said. “We no longer work within our own silos, but now work in conjunction with our partners to create a cyclical process to meet the needs of the employer and the workforce.”

The certifications come in four levels, platinum, gold, silver and bronze. The certifications rate how well examinees demonstrate foundational skills associated with jobs in the ACT job database.

Bronze recipients demonstrate skills associated with 16-percent of the jobs, silver recipients with 67-percent of the jobs, gold recipients with 93-percent of the jobs and platinum recipients with 99-percent of the jobs in the ACT job database.

Concordia Parish has received 605 total certificates — 175 bronze, 374 gold, 56 silver, zero platinum, and 34 in the plus category, which measures soft skills for the job.

Adams County has received 551 total certificates — 160 bronze, 329 silver, 62 gold, zero platinum and eight plus.

More than 50 employers in the area support the program including Von Drehle, Great River Industries, Merit Health, Riverland Medical Center and Louisiana Hydroelectric.

The region must now reach new goals within two years in order to maintain the certified status of a Work Ready Community. These goals include active participation and support from our business community as well as an increase in earned NCRCs.

Natchez Inc. Executive Director Chandler Russ said he is excited to celebrate this achievement by the community.

“It has been a lot of hard work, but we are confident that the effort will pay dividends to our existing employers by streamlining hiring practices, cutting costs and reducing turnover,” Russ said. “We are equally confident that the certification and the supporting data will aid in our business and industrial recruitment efforts. We have a qualified workforce in many areas and can support this claim with data.”