Charlotte County is ‘Work Ready’. What does that mean?
Published 8:45 am Thursday, January 26, 2023
Just over three years after it became a certified “Work Ready Community,” Charlotte County was recognized at the National Workforce Summit for their hard work with the Work Ready Communities Initiative. But what is a “Work Ready Community”?
County officials say the initiative helps improve the job training and marketability of Virginia’s workforce, and drive future economic growth for the state. Terra Napier, Executive Director of the South Central Workforce Development Board, says this achievement was years in the making.
“It was created to help economic development throughout this part of Southside,” Napier explained. “Economic developers did not have a way to show prospective employers that we had many people ready to work in our labor force right now. There was no tool for that.”
The Initiative created that tool, using the school systems to test individuals’ skills assessments. Those test results would then draw businesses to the region.
“When you have a high school diploma or Associates or Bachelors degree, it does not always show the technical skills that you have,” Napier said. “Whereas this test shows more of your aptitude and things like that – it shows a different part of your workplace skills. “So employers were able to use that to help certify these people and say, ‘You know what, Joe did really good on his aptitude test for us in career readiness, so let’s bump him up to a different position, or I would have never thought to have put him in maintenance, but he has astronomical aptitude in maintenance’.”
A critical piece for the Charlotte County economy
Charlotte County Administrator Daniel Witt says this is a critical piece for the county, in order to recruit companies.
“When businesses are looking to locate in different counties, this is one avenue that they can look at and say we have a certified workforce within that county to meet the needs of our business if we come to that county,” Witt said. “It’s a plus when new businesses look at this, that we’re certified and can provide workers.
According to workreadycommunities.org, Charlotte County is one of 16 counties in the state that are certified “Work Ready Communities.” Of the 16, 10 have maintained that status, transitioning to “Phase Two.”
“We got the first official certification in December 2019 and then we maintained our status a year later, and now here we are in maintaining phase two, which is unheard of,” she said. “Normally they give you that five year window to complete those goals – and between the workforce testing and the school systems testing the juniors and seniors, we got that accomplished pretty quick. It says a lot for Charlotte County and what we’re doing to help our community.”
It is difficult to maintain, she said, because of the testing that has to be continually completed.
“You have to get people who are willing to be tested,” she said of the assessment, which includes reading, math, logical and graphical questions. “You have to make sure you have good communication and connection with your employers – in rural Virginia we’re lucky in that aspect.”