Local Counties to Receive 'Work Ready' Designation
By Tim Brockwell
PADUCAH, KY - McCracken,  Marshall, Fulton and Carlisle counties are on track to be designated Kentucky Work Ready Communities.

The Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet's Work Ready status lets employers know that a local workforce has the required skills to fill existing jobs and to become proficient in the new technologies that future jobs will require. Several criteria, including graduation rates, community commitment, educational attainment rate, soft skills development, and digital literacy are used to determine if a community qualifies for the Work Ready designation. Once they apply for the designation, communities have up to three years to meet the minimum criteria, and must show continuous improvement within this period.

The Kentucky Work Ready Community Steering Committee, which consists of representatives from all major stakeholders in the project (including employers, education, workforce development, economic development and more) worked to define the criteria initially. Further guidance was received by leaders in business and industry.

There are two levels of designation; work ready in progress, which means a community is working to meet the required criteria for a Work Ready designation; and full Work Ready, which means a community has met all the required criteria. McCracken, Marshall and Carlisle Counties have been designated as full Work Ready, and if all goes according to plan they will receive the Work Ready designation on Nov. 19. Fulton County is currently designated as Work Ready in progress. 

Special projects coordinator for the Purchase Area Development District Mary Anne Medlock said the Work Ready designation helps communities set themselves apart from the rest, and the collaboration among business and community leaders is what makes the program so valuable. "It creates an environment of economic development," Medlock said. "Any time you can get county leaders sitting down with school officials, economic development, chamber of commerce and interested individuals together moving toward the same goal, then you're gonna win. That is what I think is so important about this program. Everyone becomes a part of the process."

Kentucky Work Ready Community status lasts for two years, at which time each community must be recertified to ensure they have not fallen below required criteria levels. The recertification process is a shorter process than the original application.

Paducah Area Chamber of Commerce president Sandra Wilson said local officials have been working to secure the Work Ready distinction for several years. "It's been in the works for about three years. We first received our work ready in progress status, then they went through what we needed to improve on and what we needed to address in order to become full Work Ready certified," Wilson said. "It's very much a collaborative effort. We're Thrilled."

Published 11:06 PM, Thursday Oct. 29, 2015
Updated 11:51 AM, Friday Oct. 30, 2015

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