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New career readiness program helping employers, employees

A program that can help both the employee and the employer -- that's the focus of the National Career Readiness Certificate program.

The Minnesota WorkForce Center Rural Minnesota CEP is working with the certificate program to assess and build employee skills and help employers find the best man or woman for the job in the pool of applicants.

"It will challenge anybody," Team Leader Kelley Nowell said. "There are lots of courses that can be utilized."

The three basic skills that are assessed for every person going through the free program are reading for information, applied mathematics and locating information.

Other courses on KeyTrain -- the online program that produces the tests -- include everything from applied technology in multiple areas to business writing, listening and teamwork.

The testing also touches on career skills like work habits, business etiquette, communication skills and job searching.

So far, 48 states are using the program, including all states bordering Minnesota.

All of the tests are conducted online. Interested persons come into CEP and meet with a team leader to set up their testing plan. From there, the person taking the tests can take them from anywhere with Internet access, "on their own time and at their own pace," Nowell said.

Each course has a goal rating that needs to be reached. The person takes the test and depending on what his or her score is, the program will then generate some practice lessons to up their score when retaking the test.

"They start out easy and get harder and harder to assess where you're at," Nowell said.

After completing all the courses, the person is given either a bronze, silver, gold or platinum skill rating.

At the bronze level, KeyTrain says the individual possesses core employability for about 30 percent of the profiled jobs. KeyTrain's WorkKeys profiles thousands of jobs to see what skills are needed and how proficient workers need to be in those skilled areas.

With a silver rating, individuals possess skills for 65 percent of profiled jobs, gold level is for 90 percent of jobs, and platinum is for 99 percent of profiled jobs.

"This is not just a Minnesota thing, not just a Detroit Lakes thing. It's national for certifying work skills," Nowell said.

Once the individual has completed the testing and earned their certificate, they can then list it on resumes or post it online through the program for potential employers to verify the validity of the applicant's skill rating.

"It can make them stand out and be set apart from other perspective employees," Nowell said of having the certificate.

The higher someone tests, it could translate into the higher income for having more skills as well.

These tests aren't just for people with little to no education, those struggling to get jobs or those laid off and trying to find work.

"Anyone actively job seeking," she said. "Anyone with gaps in work history, struggling to find a job and not successful, recent graduates of high school of post secondary."

It can also be for someone who is employed but looking for either higher pay, a promotion or someone who just wants to see what skill level they test at.

Nowell said someone may have a degree in a particular field, but they can't necessarily demonstrate their skill level yet. This test and certificate could help.

The program is free to take. Once the program is completed and the final test to get the certificate is needed, CEP is working under a grant to get that fee paid for as well.

"All they need to do is invest their time and energy," she said.

Those taking the test can show that they are "not just sitting idle but doing the best they can to improve their skills."

Besides just assessing and working on employees' skills, the program is beneficial to employers, she said.

Hiring someone who has taken the time to go through the program shows they are willing to go the extra mile, lowers the pool of qualified applicants for jobs and could reduce the amount of time and money spent on training.

Nowell and other CEP employees are working to get the word out about the National Career Readiness Certificate program and get employers to recognize and give preference to those who have taken the tests and scored high. The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development is also working with CEP on the program and talking to businesses about its benefits.

Nowell said there are quit a few people working through the KeyTrain program to earn their certificates, and team leaders are working to keep them motivated to finish the program.

While searching for jobs, "anything to better yourself" is important. "This is just another way to do it," she said.

In the near future, there will be information sessions each Wednesday at 1 p.m. to check out what the program is all about. Check community education listings for more information.

Those interested in talking about the program -- whether it is employees or employers -- can stop by CEP on Roosevelt Avenue or call 846-7377.