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Career readiness test now available

Kathy Carney introduced the NCRC to a Park Rapids audience last week. (Jean Ruzicka / Enterprise)

A National Career Readiness Certificate has emerged to connect Minnesota businesses with a skilled workforce, the initiative stemming from the challenge employers face in finding qualified applicants.

Kathy Carney, a field operations manager for the Department of Employment and Economic Development, explained the "new product" is being introduced to keep up with changing dynamics.

"How we recruit and hire is changing dramatically in the global community," she told her audience in Park Rapids last week. "It's no longer good enough to think about a job. We need to think in terms of career pathways," she said, citing the recent numbers of workers over 45 who've lost jobs.

"We need to continue skill building through our lifetimes," she said.

The NCRC is a strategic partnership with ACT. The American College Testing Program began in the 1950s to assess students' readiness for higher education.

"Twenty years ago, employers came to ACT," Carney said. Job profiling began. Tasks were weighted based on criticality.

Three skills were found to top the list - reading for information, applied math and the ability to analyze and apply information.

Four certificate levels are awarded based on test scores. Bronze is given to those with proven skills needed for 35 percent of Minnesota jobs - cashiers, file clerks and home health aides, for example.

Silver reflects skills for 65 percent of jobs, such as dental assistants, machinists or truck drivers.

Gold shows the person has the ability for 90 percent of jobs - electrician, paramedic and graphic designer, among them.

And platinum reflects an aptitude for 99 percent of jobs - engineers, pharmacists and network systems analysts.

The NCRC can be used as part of the hiring process for businesses and career planning for individuals. It's a tool to validate the worth of a high school diploma and it's a means to create a talent pool in a community aimed at economic development.

Minnesota has received its first round of 5,000 assessments, with plans to purchase another round. DEED has partnered with Rural Minnesota CEP to initiate the testing, at a cost of $22.50 per test.

The test not only demonstrates job seekers' abilities, but helps employers hire and promote skilled employees.

"This is a huge economic development tool," Carney said of the test now being used in 40 states to verify work-related skills and knowledge in industries ranging from management to manufacturing to entry level employment.

For more information on the NCRC certificates, contact the Detroit Lakes or Bemidji WorkForce Centers.