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Clayton County seeking ‘work ready’ certification

Clayton County wants to better its economy, and the quality of life for its residents.

The county is working at becoming a certified “Work Ready Community,” by the end of the year, according to Crystal Black, vice president of the Clayton County Chamber of Commerce, and also a member of the committee for the Clayton County Georgia Work Ready program.

“It is a great program that is going to help with economic development for Clayton County ...,” she said.

Melvin Everson, executive director of the Governor’s Office of Work Force Development, spoke to the county’s business community during the chamber’s “SunTrust Early Bird Breakfast,” on Thursday. He said the county is close to reaching its goal. To achieve community certification, Clayton needs 700 people from the private sector to take a free assessment to, themselves, become Georgia Work Ready certified, he said.

Businesses interested in coming to the state will see Clayton as an attractive location, once it is fully certified, added Black. Everson said achieving the certification signifies to the business world that Clayton’s workforce is in good standing for existing jobs and future jobs. “It makes Clayton County more competitive when they are soliciting and recruiting businesses or industries to relocate or expand in Clayton County,” he said.

He said the evaluation assessments for workforce readiness are administered through ACT’s WorkKeys system, which is nationally accredited. ACT is an independent, non-profit organization that focuses on providing assessments, research, information and program-management solutions for education and workforce growth, according to its web site, www.act.org.

“The tool that they [Work Ready] provide is central for that, because as people are tested, they are tested at different levels, and companies need a wide variety of levels in their business,” said Black. “So, they will know immediately that this ... will be a good community to set up traffic.”

A variety of individuals are tested, including high school graduates, college students, government workers, those in the private sector, as well as people who are unemployed, she added.

“So, there are different segments of the workforce that are tested, and in that testing, there are certain levels that need to be achieved for us to be considered a certified Georgia Work Ready program,” said Black. “We are seeking out those certain areas to make sure we have enough people who are tested.”

According to Georgia Work Ready officials, efforts to get communities up to certified Work Ready Community status contributed to raising the state’s public high school graduation rate, from 69.4 percent in 2005, to 79.9 percent in 2010.

Since March 2009, more than 6,500 Work Ready certified Georgians have found jobs, officials said, pointing out a benefit of the program.

“It is all about economics,” Everson said. “Education equals economics. You don’t get a Ph.D., to sit down. You get that Ph.D. to provide an opportunity for yourself and others, by imparting that knowledge, by starting that business, by conducting that research for that university, whatever the case may be. It all ties directly back to economics.”

Robin Roberts, of the Clayton County Work Ready Team, said Clayton is part of two Work Ready regions. One is the Bioscience Work Ready Region, which is blossoming as a hub of life and science in the Southeast, with top research institutions such as Emory University, Georgia Tech and Georgia State University. Other counties that are a part of this region include Gwinnett, Fulton and DeKalb, she said.

The county also belongs to the Georgia Entertainment Work Ready Region, which targets entertainment to create economic-development opportunities, she said. Other counties in this region include Henry, Fulton and DeKalb, said Roberts.

Everson said after the county becomes certified, it will receive $10,000 from the program, which will assist it in achieving the next re-certification level, demonstrating that the county is work ready certified, but not going to stop there. It will continue to improve its workforce for business opportunities.

The money will allow the county to invest in high school graduation rates and increase its outreach to businesses and industries, Everson said.

He said Georgia Work Ready was launched in August 2006 by former Gov. Sonny Perdue and the Georgia Chamber of Commerce to improve the job-training and marketability of Georgia’s workforce. “The Georgia Work Ready initiative is the only initiative of its kind in the country,” he added.