Chesterfield County Council members accepted the challenge placed before them last Wednesday morning by Ron Bartley, president of Northeastern Technical College, to make Chesterfield County a SC Work Ready Community by creating a Work Keys Initiative program that will partner local businesses with educating and training the county’s workforce.
Work Keys Initiative programs “require community involvement,” said Barley.
Councilwoman Lenora Powe agreed. This program “well deserves to be worked on,” she said. But it was Councilman Crawford Moore who volunteered to lead council’s efforts in forming a steering committee. According to Bartley, that committee will be responsible for creating the county’s plan of action.
“I am glad to be part of the Alliance and will definitely be glad to help head up these efforts,” said Moore.
The program will focus on “matching job openings with job seekers,” said Brenda Workman, executive director for the Chesterfield County Economic Development. “Chesterfield County sees the Work Ready initiative as a great way to align economic development, education, and workforce development.”
Workman said she is thankful for the leadership County Council and the Economic Development Alliance have shown in choosing to be part of this statewide initiative program. “It’s a great way to align economic development, education and workforce development together,” she said. “It makes perfect sense.”
Participating in ACT’s Certified Work Ready Communities, according to their guidelines, means the community would enjoy these assets:
• Business and industry will know exactly what foundational skills they need for a productive workforce and will communicate their needs with ease.
• Individuals will understand what skills are required by employers and how to prepare themselves for success.
• Policy makers will consistently measure the skills gap in a timely manner at the national, state and local levels.
• Educators will close the skills gap, via tools integrated into career pathways with stack-able industry and recognized credentials.
• Economic developers will use on-demand reporting tools to market the quality of their workforce.
According to Bartley, this opportunity will give Chesterfield County a more competitive workforce. “This new system will create a nationally accepted inventory of our workforce assets and skills that we can advertise to attract new businesses and investment.”
“Workforce metrics attractive to industry will be targeted and action plans implemented for improvement,” said Bartley. “For example, a major goal of the program is to improve County high school graduation rates to 73.1 percent, averaged over a three year period.” Last year’s graduation rate for Cheraw High School was 72.9 percent.
— Staff Writer Karen Kissiah can be reached by calling 843-537-5261, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.