An effort to improve and document jobs skills could enhance Columbia County's appeal to potential new employers.
Through Georgia Work Ready, an initiative started in 2007 by the Governor's Office of Workforce Development, area companies recently were asked to undergo job profiling and to seek out potential employees carrying Work Ready Certificates.
"Increasingly, companies from out of the state and out of the area look to tools that are used to measure worker skill sets," said Troy Post, the executive director of the county's Development Authority. "The Work Ready program is a way to kind of provide a means to measure that worker skill set."
Job profilers from Augusta Technical College can assess the required tasks and skill levels for each position within area companies. The profiles are free, and state grants are available to compensate companies for time spent on the process.
Once a profile is complete, skill levels can be matched with employees carrying Work Ready Certificates, which are earned by undergoing an assessment test.
The WorkKeys test is administered weekly at Augusta Tech campuses in Augusta, Thomson and Waynesboro. It assesses a test-taker's abilities in applied math, reading for information, and locating information -- skills deemed necessary for most jobs.
Chris Baucom, the business development manager for the Governor's Office of Workforce Development, attempted recently to sell the program to area manufacturers and school officials.
"From a work force development perspective, having a critical mass of residents Work Ready certified ... makes the state more marketable by showing that we have a qualified work force," Baucom said.
No Columbia County company had yet undergone job profiling, he said.
Post hopes Baucom's challenge will be accepted by county businesses.
"It shows that you've got these kind of worker skill sets in existence," Post said. "It becomes another way to market the area and the skills of the people who work and live here."
Baucom also wants the county to seek status as a Certified Work Ready Community, which shows that a significant portion of the county's work force and potential work force have obtained a Work Ready Certificate.
The ratios vary depending on the population of each community, but in Columbia County the numbers of Work Ready certifications needed in some categories are 222 private sector employees, 369 unemployed residents, 112 high school seniors, 34 recent high school graduates or those who obtained a high-school equivalency, and 32 recent college graduates. The number of county residents who have obtained those certificates as of the most recent count are 38 from the private sector, 118 unemployed, five high school seniors and 10 recent college graduates.
To encourage growth in those figures, $150 gift cards are being offered to those who are unemployed to take the assessment and plans are being made to offer the assessment in area high schools.
"In the end, all of this is about matching good employees with good jobs," said Lisa Palmer, interim vice president of economic development at Augusta Tech. "If the business community will get behind this initiative, and really value it, all the other pieces will fall into place."
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