Monterey County Business Council promotes ACT job-skills test as a hiring tool.
Thursday, October 18, 2012
You’ve probably seen the online multiple-choice quizzes that rate your flirting skills or reveal which Twilight character is most like you. But the Monterey County Business Council is banking on a more official test to attract employers to the Central Coast and put people to work.
MCBC’s leading a push to certify the region’s workers through ACT WorkKeys, job-skills assessments that help employers find candidates who meet their needs. The three core tests evaluate abilities in applied math, reading comprehension and information finding – which, taken together, are “the best predictor of workplace success,” according to ACT spokeswoman Katie Wacker.
The local program is the brainchild of MCBC President Mary Ann Leffel. Through the Central Coast Career Readiness Consortium, the MCBC is licensed to administer WorkKeys tests in six counties including Monterey, San Benito, Santa Cruz and San Luis Obispo. The 27 testing sites include high schools, adult schools, career centers and businesses.
Test-takers can earn ACT’s National Career Readiness Certificate in bronze, silver, gold or platinum. ACT reports that more than 1 million people in the U.S. are credentialed, but California may be lagging behind states such as Georgia, Michigan and Illinois that have adopted the program at a statewide level.
So MCBC is certifying workers regionally. Monterey County was the pilot and now contains about 800 of the consortium’s 1,000 certificate holders, according to MCBC Program Manager Samantha Harrison. She says the test can also help schools like CSU Monterey Bay and Hartnell College align their curricula with local business needs. A training component allows people unhappy with their scores to take online modular tutorials in preparation for a retest.
WorkKeys offers nine other tests in addition to the core three; MCBC administers a talent assessment to measure soft skills such as management and customer service.
“They’ve been pretty accurate,” Leffel says. “They can say, ‘This person has a team spirit,’ or ‘This person can work independently.’”
Harrison, for example, says she scored 97 percent in teamwork but only 60 percent in savvy, which relates to the ability to understand office politics and read people’s motives. “It was all stuff I knew about myself as an employee,” she says.
Certification may be nice on a résumé, but the program targets employers too. Authorized ACT profilers go into workplaces and analyze the minimum WorkKeys scores needed for particular positions.
Berta Torres, human resources representative for Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, says the company recently brought MCBC’s team in to test candidates for an internal promotion at the Castroville production and distribution center, which employs about 275 workers. “The corporate offices [in Vermont] have been using it for some time, and they are pleased with it,” she says.
Zooming out, regions can use WorkKeys as an economic development tool. Leffel hopes Monterey County can eventually woo new or expanding businesses by advertising its number of certified local workers.
“They look at a certificate as an evaluation that you do have a work-ready community,” she says.
The Central Coast Career Readiness Consortium charges $15 per WorkKeys test. If interested, contact Samantha Harrison at 582-3237 or email@example.com.