By Stuart Hirsch
The Herald Bulletin
---- — ANDERSON — These days, the key to getting a decent paying job in industry — especially if you don't have a college degree — is increasingly something called WorkKeys.
Officially, it's the American College Testing (ACT) WorkKeys National Career Readiness Assessment.
WorkKeys measures skills in three areas, according to ACT: applied mathematics, reading for information, and location information. And all the questions are based on situations that come up every day in the work world.
Indiana WorkOne Centers have been using the assessment as an aid for both employers and job seekers for several years, said Joe Frank, spokesman for the Department of Workforce Development.
"We use WorkKeys assessments to match folks with businesses," he said.
Locally, businesses such as Greenville Technologies, Inc. an automotive component manufacturer, and Hy-Pro Filtration, which is building a new headquarters at the Flagship Enterprise Center, either use the tests to screen applicants, or are exploring the idea.
The Anderson Impact Center on the westside is ramping up classes and programs to help provide the skills training to help Anderson's less advantaged citizens prepare for the modern industrial and commercial workplace.
And the city is helping in that effort through federal grants and money from the food and beverage tax, said Human Relations Director Floyd Edwards.
"We wanted to put these programs and this money in low-to-moderate income areas to make sure people there are given a fair opportunity to prepare for the test," he said. "We're trying to bring the new technology and skills to people who might not be aware these opportunities to exist."
Rev. Dr. Earlie Dixon, one of the Impact Center's founders, agreed with Edwards.
"We like to say we're the gateway to the westside," Dixon said.
He said Anderson and Purdue universities donated computers pre-loaded with the appropriate software to help get the program off the ground.
WorkKeys, he said, is being incorporated into education programs the Impact Center already operates. A class of students working on the five-month-long program to earn credentials as Certified Nursing Assistants just graduated; another is set to begin in mid-August.
The length of that class is important for several reasons, Dixon said. First, it gives instructors time to learn each student's strengths and weaknesses, and also gauge their dedication and seriousness about advancing in a career. Teaching life skills such as arriving on time and dressing appropriately for the the workplace, complements skills training.
"It's a great program for people to advance themselves," said Rob Sparks, executive director of the the Madison County Corporation for Economic Development.
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