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MCEDA wants to make county ‘work-ready’ and ‘open for business’

County business leaders are spearheading an initiative to certify that Madison County is full of people ready to work and open for business.

Danielle Winningham, Chief Operating Officer of the Madison County Economic Development Authority, said they are working with Madison County Business League & Foundation members as well as the workforce development program at Holmes Community College to get the area certified with the ACT Work Ready Communities initiative.

“The overall goals are to create a qualified talent pipeline in Madison County, to equip Madison County residents with a credential that is recognized throughout the United States and across all industry sectors, and to be recognized as a community that highly values our workforce,” Winningham said.

This will be a certification that can — at a quick glance — let businesses and industries know what workforce resources and assets are available to them as well as helping individuals, policy makers, educators and developers understand the strengths and needs of their area.

Winningham said that by participating in the ACT Work Ready Communities initiative, communities can identify skill gaps using the ACT National Career Readiness Certificate Assessment, the same entity that offers college admissions tests.

This credential is an industry-recognized "standard of achievement" that aims to identify proficiency in three key areas for landing jobs in reading for information, applied math and locating information. It also follows anyone who has received a certificate if they move.

“This helps educators build career pathways aligned to the needs of business and industry, which helps close skill gaps. It also helps the community to stand out and be recognized for its workforce development efforts, which is an economic development advantage,” Winningham said.

To qualify, a certain number of workers need to take an assessment test and a certain number of businesses and employers need to add their name to a website with MCEDA to show their support.

As of Feb. 28, MCEDA has 56 businesses and employers signed up, with a goal of 128 businesses.

The workforce is broken down into three categories: emerging, current and transition. Of the emerging workers, meaning those still in school, 81 of a target 177 have signed up. The current workers status has surpassed its goal of 26 with 75 people participating. Transitioning workers, usually meaning the unemployed or those coming out of the military, have 119 signups of 227 needed.

“We are halfway to our goal and have about another year to get what we need. I am confident we will meet our goal,” Winningham said.

This puts MCEDA at 50 percent of the overall goal to achieve the certified work ready community status.

The workforce assessment is given at the WIN Job Center in Canton and at Holmes Community College D.P. “Pat” McGowan Workforce Training Center in Ridgeland.

“This would be another tool in MCEDA’s toolbox to attract economic development for our area,”

Jan Collins, executive director of the MCBL&F, added.

For more information about taking the assessment to earn the NCRC, contact Angela Crain, Workforce Development Coordinator for Holmes Community College in Ridgeland at acrain@holmescc.edu or 601.605.3370

Originally published in the Madison County Journal

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