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  • AIM Team

Mapping your county’s route to workforce competitiveness

The Missouri Division of Workforce Development (DWD) launched the Certified Work Ready Communities (CWRC) initiative in September of 2012.  The intent and vision for the CWRC program is to attract, retain, and develop a workforce with the education and fundamental skills to succeed in the 21st Century.  By using the ACT ‘s National Career Readiness Certificate for skill assessment as a county by county measure, and engaging local employers, communities can build a talent pipeline to serve existing employers and attract new businesses.

Missouri was one of the first three states in the nation to qualify for the ACT (American College Testing) CWRC Academy. ACT provides the national framework for this program, including the county goals. Since its inception in Missouri, the program has grown across the state, with 33 counties registered as in progress, and one county (Jasper County) fully certified. Nationally, the program has grown as well and now, includes 17 states.

Associated Industries of Missouri has supported this effort from the very start.  AIM President Ray McCarty served as a member of an inaugural task force promoting the effort that included state officials, business representatives and representatives of the education community.

The effort is a voluntary initiative lead by community leaders in education, economic development, elected officials, chambers of commerce, community colleges, and local businesses. One of the goals to achievement includes the number of National Career Readiness Certificate (NCRC) holders in a county. The categories for this include emerging population (students), current workers, and transitional workers (unemployed). An individual with an NCRC has the advantage of substantiating skills with a document that is portable across a state line (accepted in multiple states) and crosses industry sectors.

Employer partnerships are the second qualification for CWRC certification. Each county has specific goals to meet, and when they sign the Employer Partnership Letter, they join the roster on the national and state website.

The process of verifying and validating the local workforce in each county allows access to this information electronically, and gives economic developers an on-demand reporting tool. It will help our current businesses to make determinations on expansion and reinforce the advantage of staying in Missouri. It allows any prospective company to know the quality of the workforce in a given area. Site Selection magazine has determined that a qualified workforce is one of the first factors considered in location selection. Please visit and click on your county to see local goals, achievement levels, and participating local employers. (ACT updates this information monthly.)

The Manufacturing Institute states 82% of manufacturers experience a moderate or serious shortage in skilled production workers. Of those manufacturers, 75% say the skill shortage impedes their ability to expand. There are 600,000 jobs in the manufacturing sector going unfilled because employers cannot find employees with the right skills. By utilizing the NCRC, a business can develop a workforce with the skills required for success in the workplace. Finding the right job candidate saves companies time and money. A bad hire is an expensive mistake.

Missouri employers have validated this effort; over 1,000 businesses have signed Employer Partnership Letters to participate in the Work Ready Communities initiative. The largest share of these businesses is in manufacturing. The majority of these companies have 100 employees or more, but smaller enterprises are encouraged and welcomed. A recent survey conducted by ACT indicated 96% of respondents were likely to support Missouri’s CWRC initiative.

For a participating listing of businesses in Missouri visit:

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