As director of business and economic development for Entergy Mississippi, I’m encouraged to see communities constantly looking to improve the quality of their workforce to both benefit existing industry and to increase their competitiveness for business recruitment or expansions. A proven program is the ACT Certified Work Ready Community program. Counties throughout Mississippi are using the framework to close the skills gap. In our service area alone, 14 counties have achieved certification or are in the process.
The ACT Certified Work Ready program links, aligns and matches a community’s workforce development efforts among employers, future employees and educational institutions. Through the program’s WorkKeys® assessment, counties can identify the skill level of the community’s workforce, as well as skills deficits, to then work with educators to build career pathways that are aligned to the needs of the community’s businesses. The National Career Readiness Certification is a nationally-recognized credential of essential workplace skills that enables individuals to document their readiness for a career.
In Entergy Mississippi’s 45-county service area, there are currently five certified ACT Work Ready Counties and nine others participating. Statewide, the program has a total of 74,651 ACT WorkKeys NCRC Levels achieved and more than 500 participating employers supporting and engaging in the program.
In May, Natchez Inc. and Concordia Parish Economic Development announced that the Miss Lou Region completed the required goals to become the first ACT Certified Work Ready Region to cross state lines.
In addition, earlier this year, the Washington County Economic Alliance announced that it has achieved its certification as an ACT Work Ready Community. The certification will support Washington County in economic development and industry recruitment and bolster existing industry by linking workforce development to education and employers’ needs. In the same region, Bolivar and Sunflower counties have also achieved certification.
Business decision-makers understand the value of having a job-ready, trainable pool of talent from which to choose to ensure their company’s profitability. Consultants working with such businesses also know that counties, educators, employers and individuals demonstrating the commitment of undertaking the ACT Work Ready program are dedicated to their clients’ success.
We are confident that the ACT Work Ready program is a valuable tool in delivering a credentialed, prepared workforce focused with the skills that employers look for when hiring. We are proud of the work our counties are undertaking to grow and support existing industry in the area and to demonstrate workforce standards for businesses looking to locate.