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Clayton kicks off Work Ready Week

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

With more than a year and a half left on the clock, Clayton County is one-third of the way toward its goal of becoming a Certified Work Ready Community, before the summer of 2011. This week, several county organizations are coming together to raise awareness of the Georgia Work Ready program, and assess the job skills of as many people as possible.

On Monday, the Clayton County Department of Economic Development and several other agencies kicked off Clayton County Work Ready Week with a ribbon cutting for a new Work Ready assessment site at the Georgia Department of Labor building in Jonesboro. The ceremony included representatives of the Clayton County Chamber of Commerce, the Georgia Department of Labor, the Atlanta Regional Workforce Board, the University of Georgia Archway Partnership Program, and the Atlanta Regional Commission.

According to Clayton County Economic Development Department Assistant Director Randall Toussaint, the Georgia Work Ready initiative was created in 2006 by the Governor's Office of Workforce Development to improve job training and lift the profile of the state's workforce. All this week, Work Ready assessments will be conducted at various sites around the county and officials will highlight the importance of the program with ribbon cuttings and other special events, he said.

"It's [Clayton County Work Ready Week] to promote the Work Ready program, what we've done, and where we're going with the program," Toussaint said. "Right now, we're in the tail end of an economic downturn. With all the negative press the school system has gotten, we now have a program that attacks both of those issues aggressively. People are coming to the table for one, common goal -- to increase the economic vitality of Clayton County."

According to Toussaint, the Work Ready assessment consists of three tests in math, reading comprehension, and logic. Based on one's score, the participant will receive a bronze-, silver-, gold-, or platinum-level certificate, which employers associated with the Georgia Work Ready program can identify.

Today, the Clayton County Board of Commissioners is expected to officially designate Nov. 16-20 as Clayton County Work Ready Week during its regular business meeting at 7 p.m.

On Thursday, from 11:30 a.m., to 2 p.m., Clayton State University will host Work Ready Day at the university's testing center and student center. Students will be able to take the three-hour assessment between 9 a.m., and 3 p.m.

On Friday, from 3 to 4 p.m., a number of county agencies are expected to be on hand for a ribbon cutting for Drew High School. Several state and local officials are expected to attend the event as well.

From 9 a.m., to 3 p.m., on Friday, Work Ready testing will be conducted at Drew High School.

Georgia Work Ready Community Manager Fred McConnel said the county must conduct Work Ready assessments of 2,744 people from specific segments of the community by June 2011 in order to become a Certified Work Ready Community. As another requirement for certification, the county must raise its high school graduation rate by 2 percent, he said.

According to McConnel, the graduation requirement has already been met, and as of Oct. 31, the county had tested 833 people, mostly from the ranks of the unemployed.

"They have already reached their high school [graduation rate] goal," said McConnel. "The fact that they are already one-third of the way through [their assessments] and not even one-third of the way through their time period shows that they are doing pretty well. Judging by the list of organizations [involved with Clayton County Work Ready Week], that shows the overall county commitment, which is often the most difficult thing to obtain."

Residents can currently take Work Ready assessments at the Clayton County Career Resource Center in Morrow, the Georgia Department of Labor's Clayton County office in Jonesboro, the Eula Ponds Perry Learning Center in Jonesboro, and at any Clayton County public high school during the spring testing season. Starting Friday, the assessments will be offered at the Clayton State University Testing Center.

Those who are unemployed are able to receive $50 for completing bronze- through gold-level assessments and $100 for completing a platinum-level assessment. To register for testing, contact LeAndra Jordan at (770) 960-2192 or e-mail cc@atlantatech.edu.