By Joel Hall
Gov. Sonny Perdue announced this week that Clayton County is among 30 Georgia counties to recently make a commitment to becoming a Certified Work Ready Community within the next three years.
According to county officials, the community is already working toward goals that will help it become a certified community, including getting 2,741 residents Work Ready certified.
This week, Perdue complimented the 30 counties on their efforts. He said their participation will help make Georgia more attractive to new industries.
"Georgia's communities are boosting their economic development credentials and helping their citizens improve their core job skills," he said, in a written statement.
Fred McConnel, Work Ready Community Manager for the state , said the Office of the Governor launched the Georgia Work Ready program in January 2007 as a way of helping potential and current Georgia businesses locate skilled employees within communities. Through the help of technical schools and career resource centers, the program assesses the basic job skills of potential employees, and helps them improve in any areas where they may be lacking, he said.
"For businesses currently in the county, first and foremost, it allows them to identify potential employees," McConnel said. "It helps out HR [human resource] departments ... so they don't under-employ anybody and they don't over-employ anybody. This makes sure that the employer can customize its workforce."
During Work Ready training, job seekers are tested in applied math, reading comprehension, and other work skills, and are ranked, based on their scores. According to McConnel, Clayton County is well on its way to becoming a Certified Work Ready Community, as it has already certified 510 individuals as of July 31.
"While their timeline just started, they started working on this quite a while ago," McConnel said. "They are quite ahead of many other counties ... They are showing potential businesses that they want to provide them with the best workers possible."
According to Joey Balog, director of programs for the Henry County Chamber of Commerce, Henry County started its effort to become a Certified Work Ready Community during the summer of last year. As of July 31, Henry County had 372 certifications toward its goal of having 1,239 certifications by the summer of 2011, he said.
Each county's certification goal is based on its population, Balog said.
Jamie Carlington, public relations officer for the Clayton County Board of Commissioners, said Clayton is increasing its own efforts to get more residents certified within the coming months.
"With the downturn in the economy, we hope to emphasize that you are going to have to retrain yourself," she said. "With this being a free program, we want people to be able to take advantage of this. One of the things we are going to be doing is promoting it more in our libraries. What you will see is a decrease in our unemployment rate and an ability to generate more income for our county."
Clayton County Library Services Director Carol Stewart said that presently in Clayton County, individuals can receive Work Ready assessments by appointment at the Perry Learning Center in Jonesboro and the Atlanta Regional Workforce Board's Career Resource Center in Morrow. She said that within the next two weeks, the county will make Work Ready assessment software available on computers throughout the county library system.
"We have a lot of people using the libraries, who are looking for work," Stewart said. "People will be able to get skill assessments, test their work habits, and do gap training through the library system. It's just more convenient."
According to McConnel, in order for Clayton to become a Certified Work Ready Community, it must certify the following groups of people by September of 2012: 925 people employed in the private sector; 162 people employed by the government; 1,361 unemployed individuals; 187 high school seniors or recent high school graduates; 45 people enrolled in, or recently graduated from, GED (General Education Development) programs; and 61 people enrolled in, or recently graduated from, college.
As a separate requirement, McConnel said, the county must raise its high school graduation rate by 2 percent. For the 2007-2008 school year, the graduation rate for Clayton County Public Schools was 76.5 percent, he said.
"If they can do that and improve their graduate rate ... that is going to look very attractive to any company looking to move into Clayton," he said.
For more information about the Georgia Work Ready program and testing sites, visit www.gaworkready.org.