Test helps develop workforce

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Nevada is promoting the use of a nationally-recognized test to help employers develop the state’s workforce.

The ACT WorkKeys test assesses basic math, reading and information gathering skills, and is used nationwide to determine the type of jobs an individual is qualified to perform.

Test takers are scored and given a certain level – bronze, silver, gold or platinum – each of which identifies the range of jobs the applicant is ready to take on. If a person fails to pass or to reach a desired level, a remedial online course called KeyTrain is available to help boost his scores.

Once completed, test takers are awarded ACT’s National Career Readiness Certificate, which can be used to apply for jobs anywhere in the country.

The Manufacturing Sector Council, one of eight industry councils established by the Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation and the Governor’s Workforce Investment Board, is embarking on a pilot program to test as many as 1,500 job seekers in Nevada.

The details of the program are still being worked out and will be discussed at the council’s next public meeting on July 9, according to Ray Bacon, executive director of the Nevada Manufacturers Association and co-chair of the manufacturing sector council.

Click Bond Inc., a machine parts manufacturer in Carson City, has already tested 39 employees at Western Nevada College, one of several testing locations in the state, in a sort of pilot of the pilot.

The test is already used by JobConnect and by some employers, including NV Energy and the Truckee Meadows Water Authority, to weed through potential new hires or promote from within.

“We’ve used it for our apprenticeship programs for about a year and in isolated areas for several years,” says Nanette Quitt, northern Nevada labor relations manager for the utility. “We have 25 current employees with the certificate.”

Truckee Meadows Community College has for about 10 years administered the test for employers, primarily manufacturers, and for its own accelerated machining program graduates.

Between May 2010 and May 2014, the Reno college has scored tests of 71 bronze, 308 silver, 190 gold and four platinum-level takers, according to Deb O’Gorman, director, contract training in the school’s Workforce Development department. She says fewer than half a dozen test takers failed to pass it.

DETR has a statewide license to WorkKeys, which is administered at some of the state’s colleges, including WNC in Carson City; TMCC, which has its own license; and the College of Southern Nevada, where DETR’s Workforce Development Center is located.

The initial goal of the manufacturing sector council’s pilot is to fill manufacturing jobs with reliable people and help reduce unemployment.

A longer term goal is to promote the test as a way for employers to find qualified workers and to develop statewide data to help sell the state to businesses considering locating here.

“Awareness of it is growing and hopefully we’ll be able to say to businesses that Nevada has so many silver, gold and platinum workers,” says Judy Turgiss, business services coordinator with the Workforce Development Center.


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