KINSTON, N.C., Aug. 5 /PRNewswire/ -- North Carolina's Eastern Region (NCER) announced today the approval of $273,075 in grant funds to be awarded supporting two workforce development entities: Assessing Skills for Performance in a Rebuilding Economy (ASPIRE) and The Turning Point Workforce Development Board to expand the WorkKeys and Career Readiness Certificate Programs in place for each group.
In order to qualify for the grant, NCER asked applicants to present a unique and innovative proposal, rife with fresh perspective on advancing the WorkKeys/ CRC programs within member counties to more effectively assist unemployed and underemployed workers in their area. Candidates were asked to provide suggestions on ways to horizontally and vertically integrate their suggested programs across similar entities in other NCER member counties, and with partnering organizations within their own counties, respectively. The proposals were also expected to address workforce needs in target industry clusters being advanced by NCER: advanced manufacturing, life science, marine trades, value-added agriculture, and aerospace.
ASPIRE, an alliance of 8 Eastern Region community colleges (involving two Workforce Development Boards and 10 counties), will receive $238,075 to further objectives outlined in their four-facet campaign to increase participation in and success of WorkKeys testing and Career Readiness Certificate (CRC) awards. In 2010-2011, ASPIRE plans to use the funding to secure 22 additional job profiles from area employers that wish to hire CRC certified employees, conduct outreach to assist both high school students and underemployed/unemployed workers to achieve certification (targeting over 6,000 individuals), and expand the use of successful working program models to locations throughout the alliance. The Turning Point Workforce Development (representing Edgecombe, Nash, and Wilson counties) will use the $35,000 grant to fund a multi-step project aimed at reaching its 2010 goal of awarding Career Readiness Certificates to 80% of individuals taking the assessments in the three member counties. Their systemic approach will create awareness surrounding the program - successfully identifying employers and clients who wish to participate, providing WorkKeys Assessment testing in all three counties for ease of accessibility, and providing skills upgrade training as a type of remediation for participants not scoring at recommended levels for certain jobs on the assessments.
As a part of NCER's ongoing commitment to promote economic growth and workforce development in its member counties, the recent grants represent just a portion of the increasing amount of funds that are committed annually to programs like ASPIRE and Turning Point. NCER's Workforce Development Initiative (Workforce Innovation Network) focuses specifically on promoting awareness and implementation of the WorkKeys Programs and the Career Readiness Certificate Awareness Program. The program, based on the widely known WorkKeys job assessment system developed by ACT (the same organization that develops testing for college-bound high school students), helps underemployed, unemployed, or displaced workers gain skill sets valued by selected employers to enable future success in the workplace. Through funding of coalitions like ASPIRE and the Turning Point Workforce Development, North Carolina's Eastern Region hopes to give students and residents in member counties the opportunity to advance in career areas in which they excel. On account of partnerships with area employers, individuals in the CRC programs take assessments to determine their skill sets and skill level in various areas, and are then paired with a coordinator to find a well-fitting job with partnering employers from a variety of fields. For employers, participation is largely encouraged because the hiring of CRC employees involves choosing from a narrow applicant pool of pre-qualified individuals, thereby potentially reducing rapid employee turnover and poor position fit within the company.
North Carolina's Eastern Region President, John D. Chaffee, stated of the grant approvals, "North Carolina's Eastern Region holds the success of every individual in our 13 county coalition in high regard because it is the combined skill sets of many that have led to great achievements for our region. The ongoing economic downturn does not necessitate a pause in our region's investment in our highly skilled population, but rather, an increase. Our region is still growing – employers in life science and aerospace are adding hundreds of jobs, and it is of utmost importance to us to re-invest in the continuing education and training of our population."
ASPIRE and Turning Point Workforce Development are multi-county partnerships funded through both public and private grant funds. Both programs were established to effectively evaluate the skill sets of underemployed, unemployed, or displaced workers in their respective regions, and coordinate with various participating employers to place individuals in successful occupations. "As a result of these collaborative efforts, the Eastern Region now leads all others in North Carolina in the number of people that have earned a CRC," said Kathy Howard, Vice President of NCER. "We believe the development of 'career ready' workforce will aid in the retention and recruitment of companies in our region and the individual counties we serve," Howard added.
North Carolina's Eastern Region is a 13-county partnership established by the General Assembly to promote economic development in Nash, Edgecombe, Wilson, Lenoir, Pitt, Wayne, Greene, Duplin, Jones, Onslow, Pamlico, Craven and Carteret Counties. The region encompasses almost 7,000 square miles and approximately one million residents.
For more information on NCER's workforce initiatives, contact Kathy Howard, Vice President, at firstname.lastname@example.org or (252) 522-2400.
SOURCE North Carolina's Eastern Region