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Business Review Western MI
Business Review Western MI
Worker Training
(2007-09-05)
(wgvu) - 141 companies commit to WorkKeys


Sept. 6, 20007

By Mark Sanchez
marks@mbusinessreview.com

Wanting to make the best use of the limited funding he had available for
training, Mark Lindquist knew his company needed to pick the right
people.

So he decided to use an assessment program offered by a regional
initiative that aims to upgrade western Michigan's work force.

While it's too early to gauge the financial impact on the company,
Lindquist believes using the assessment to pre-qualify employees for
lean manufacturing training has helped immensely to get the best people
into class who can then help to train the next class.

We have high hopes for it going forward. It's a new way and a good way
for training, said Lindquist, the president of Rapid-Line Inc., a metal
fabricator and tooling company on the south side of Grand Rapids.

We used to pick who we thought were the best people and just put them
through training and hope it stuck.

This year we did it differently because we have limited funding money
and we want to get the best bang for the buck, he said.

Rapid-Line, which serves the office furniture and automotive industries
and employs 101 people, is one of 141 employers in the region to commit
this year to using the National Career Readiness Certificate WorkKeys
Innovation to assess the skills of current employees and new hires.

WorkKeys developed by ACT Inc., the company that does the college
entrance exams is part of the $15 million, federally funded WIRED West
Michigan initiative to improve the quality of the region's work force
over three years.

Following the reasoning that a better-trained work force is better able
to compete in the global economy, WIRED West Michigan hopes to generate
the highest per-capita ratio of workers in the nation who are WorkKeys
certified.

WIRED program manager Rachel Jungblut wishes the number of companies now
requiring or requesting WorkKeys certification for current employees and
new hires was higher.

But this is a slow process. It's one employer by one employer by one
employer, said Jungblut, who hopes to have 250 companies committed to
WorkKeys by Jan. 31, 2008.

The 141 companies in a seven-county region Kent, Ottawa, Muskegon,
Allegan, Barry, Ionia and Newaygo now using WorkKeys have a collective
work force of nearly 19,000 people.

WorkKeys better connects employers and educators by providing a common
standard and setting down clear expectations for educators.

There is no more miscommunication. We are all working on the same
standard, Jungblut said.

The program assesses reading, applied math and cognitive abilities.

The assessment also can help identify employees ready for advancement
and better match people for specific jobs or an occupation for which
they're best suited, Jungblut said.
It's a great indicator of transferable skills, she said.

Mark Sanchez
Business Review Western Michigan
800 N. Monroe
Grand Rapids, Mich. 49503
Direct: 616-222-5832
msanchez@mbusinessreview.com
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