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New readiness certificate a path to the workforce

Photo provided Karla Richardson, job counselor of Rural Minnesota CEP, presents M state nursing student Jessica Hepola with her National Career Readiness gold certificate.

In order to apply for college, taking the ACT or other standardized assessment is a given thing for high school students and it has been that way for a long time. Now a new test by the same company, being offered at the Minnesota Workforce Center in Wadena, is starting to gain traction as a credential to get into the workforce.

The National Career Readiness Certificate is the credential awarded to people taking the three WorkKeys assessments.

"The NCRC is a certificate, and it is a credential ... that job seekers can obtain to be able to demonstrate to employers that they have foundational skills," Craig Nathan, center operations manager of Rural Minnesota CEP, said. "Those foundational skills are in reading and math and decision-making."

Nathan said that the NCRC is one more tool for employers and jobseekers in addition to resumes and applications, and the certificate can back up the skills claimed on a resume.

The three sections of the test are "Applied Mathematics," "Reading for Information" and "Locating Information," which is similar to the Science Reasoning section of the ACT.

To earn a Bronze certificate, test takers must score at least a level three in each of the core areas. Test takers can also earn Silver, Gold and Platinum certifications. According to the ACT website, Bronze shows the foundational skills for 16 percent of the jobs in the WorkKeys database, Silver shows skills for 67 percent of the jobs, Gold shows skills for 93 percent of the jobs and Platinum shows skills for 99 percent of the jobs.

Sample questions include basic tasks such as calculating change, following written instructions and reading the number on a pressure gauge. Other sample questions are more complex, such as subtracting cubic feet in a cylinder, interpreting legalese and analyzing complex graphics and tables.

Nathan said that there are parallels between the NCRC and the ACT college test.

"That's for getting into, or for qualifying for different colleges," Nathan said. "This is a tool very similar for qualifying for different jobs."

Like the ACT, the NCRC test can be retaken if the test taker doesn't like their score.

There is also KeyTrain software to help people brush up on skills if they didn't score well on areas.

Nathan said that CEP prepares people for skills at work, from soft skills like teamwork and communication to hard skills like one would acquire through classroom training.

He said that the NCRC has used statistical research and is "normed" to the skills of different jobs.

"We are getting people in all the time now to set up for the test," Darla Hoemberg of the workforce center said.

Nathan and Hoemberg said that while no local employers have asked for the test, they are in the stage of talking to employers to gain acceptance of it. Dozens of national employers use the test.

"This has been adopted at the state level in many states," Nathan said. "Minnesota was a late adopter of this whole idea."

More than 200 people have taken the test in the Region 5 counties, Nathan said.

Hoemberg said that a number of free tests are offered to the general public interested in signing up for them.

The Workforce Center can be contacted at (218) 631-7660.