Daviess earns Work Ready status
Daviess County has earned the state’s first Work Ready Community Certification.
The Kentucky Workforce Investment Board met Thursday and voted unanimously to grant the certification, and Gov. Steve Beshear made the announcement.
“The Kentucky Workforce Investment Board made a specific point that we are the first county to receive this,” said Nick Brake, president and CEO of the Greater Owensboro Economic Development Corporation. “This is good for two years, and we have markers set to help us make improvements.”
The Work Ready Communities program is a new initiative from the KWIB and the Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet designed to signal to employers that certified counties have a skilled work force that can handle existing jobs and is ready to master jobs of the future.
Kentucky is the third state to implement a Work Ready Communities program based on the quality of its labor force.
To become certified, counties must meet the state’s criteria in six areas: high school graduation rate, National Career Readiness Certificate holders, community commitment, educational attainment, soft skills development and digital literacy.
“I’m proud of Daviess County,” Daviess County Judge-Executive Al Mattingly said after the KWIB meeting. “This is an affirmation of what our community has been doing for years — trying to get people ready for work.”
Mattingly said that recently when a representative of a prospective industry asked about the local work force, “We were able to give information to them instantly on our employees and their skills, and they were impressed. This certification affirms that we have skilled labor here in our community that can do anything.”
Brake said the region’s focus on education and work force development goes back to 1999 when the original education alliance was formed. It was the forerunner to the current regional p-16 council called the Regional Alliance for Education. That large group includes representatives of public and Catholic school systems, local colleges, business and industry and civic organizations.
The consistent focus on work force development gave Daviess County a leg up in the certification, he said.
Mattingly credits Helen Mountjoy’s leadership on the Work Ready Community certification effort as a key to the success. Mountjoy, the executive director of the Regional Alliance for Education, could not be reached for the story.
“It was at an alliance meeting in 1999 when I met Judge Mattingly, who was speaking as the owner of Acme Plumbing & Heating,” Brake said. “He was concerned about finding skilled labor and about finding employees who have those soft skills.”
Brake also attributed the Work Ready Community certification to the continued work of the local colleges, the EDC, chamber of commerce and industries who provided staffing and leadership support for the alliance.
Hugh Haydon, chairman of Owensboro’s Kentucky BioProcessing, is a member of the KWIB. Brake recalled that when Haydon led the Greater Owensboro Economic Development Corp., his strategy to focus on the work force raised eyebrows.
“Today, there is not a single EDC that is not focused on work force,” Brake said.
“We are excited that Daviess County has achieved Work Ready Community status, and we look forward to certifying many others in the future. Work ready status is not an easy accomplishment. Daviess County leaders are to be commended for working together to achieve this goal,” said Crystal Gibson, chairwoman of the Kentucky Work Ready Communities Review Panel and vice president of communications and public affairs at Citigroup.
Daviess County has a high school graduation rate of 83 percent with only the city and county school districts included. The Catholic schools’ rates may be included at some point. The Work Ready benchmark is 82.32 percent.
The county’s education attainment rate, which counts the number of people with a two-year degree or higher, is 32.1 percent. The threshold for certification is 25 percent. The county’s current rate also is above the 32 percent rate needed for recertification in two years. The alliance also has a goal to improve that rate to 39 percent in five years.
“We believe the institution of the Promise will make an impact in that area,” Judge Mattingly said.
Mattingly was referencing a scholarship program idea he proposed this year that would help more local students pay for postsecondary education and training at local colleges.
The new certification means that Daviess County must work through its plan to raise the percentage of working adults (age 18 to 64) who hold the National Career Readiness Certificate from its current 8 percent to 15 percent.
“We just need a plan to get there, and we are confident we can do that,” Brake said. “We feel a lot of adults are eligible and have not done the paperwork. And we have several initiatives in place to increase that rate.”
The alliance recently set to work to identify and/or implement programs that focus on ethic/soft skills development and credentialing at both secondary and post secondary levels. These are programs that show students are trained and well prepared to know the importance of attendance, punctuality, teamwork, leadership and critical thinking.
Daviess County is secure in the state’s measurement of digital literacy. The county has broadband and Internet service available to 96.6 percent of households.
The county must get recertified in two years to maintain the status.
Joy Campbell, 691-7299, firstname.lastname@example.org