County working hard to improve workforce

Randolph County is getting ready. Ready to answer the door when opportunity knocks. Ready to welcome new business. Ready to work. During this week's Economic Development Corp. board meeting, Director Bruce Hosier announced that, as of last Friday, Randolph County had received a "gold status" as a national ACT work-ready community. "This is a very important workforce development tool," Hosier said. "It's a certification we've been working very hard to achieve for Randolph County."

According to its website, ACT Work Ready Communities (WRC) empowers states, regions and counties with data, process and tools that drive economic growth. Participants are leveraging the National Career Readiness Certificate (NCRC) to measure and close the skills gap-and building common frameworks that link, align and match their workforce development efforts. Only five of Indiana's 92 counties have been certified so far-and of those five, only Randolph County has met 100 percent of goals identified in the program. That's significantly better than adjoining neighbors Henry (84 percent), Delaware (74 percent) and Wayne (57 percent). 

By participating in ACT's Work Ready Communities initiative, counties, regions and states are helping:

  • Business and industry know exactly what foundational skills they need for a productive workforce- and to easily communicate their needs.
  • Individuals understand what skills are required by employers-and how to prepare themselves for success.
  • Educators close the skills gap, via tools integrated into career pathways with stackable industry-recognized credentials. 
  • Economic developers use an on-demand reporting tool to market the quality of their workforce.

Hosier said another part of improving the workforce has involved getting Randolph County's five school corporations to implement what's called "Work Keys" to each of its graduating seniors. Hosier said four of the five school systems had completed that program with the fitth- Union- expected to join the list soon.

"Work Keys" is a job skills assessment system that helps employers select, hire, train, develop, and retain a high-performance workforce. According to Hosier, 214 Randolph County seniors have completed the assessment and 60 of those have achieved a gold status, a distinction only about 20 perecent reach nationally.

"We're excited about this," Hosier said. "As we know, not all graduating seniors are going on to college, so we're anticipating probably half of those students will be merging into the workforce on some level. We think this type of identification process- especially for potential employers to have this information- this is something students can use on their resume to set them apart from others."

Union City, Ind. Mayor Bryan Conklin said it was exciting to learn of the workforce improvement efforts, and that it bodes well for the future. 

"We lost an opportunity for companies to come here because we couldn't prove that we had a workforce they could draw from," Conklin said. "There was a company from Greenville, Ohio, that went to Anderson, because they said there wasn't anybody left here for them to hire."

EDC Board President Dr. Tim Long said Work Keys will help not only county employers, but educators as welll.

"The good part about this is it finally gives us a metric to chart where our workers are," Long said. "It also gives the school corporations something to shoot at for improvement."

Randolph County Council President Gary Friend recently praised local economic development efforts.

"Economic Development does a lot of work behind the scenes," Friend said. "It's good to see some of that work starting to show."


By Darrel Radford

News-Gazette City Editor

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