• Sumter County becomes first in Alabama to earn ACT Work Ready Community designation

    Posted: September 09, 2016

    Author: Public Relations

    Sumter County has just become the first county in Alabama to be certified an ACT Work Ready Community through the efforts of a task force led by the University of West Alabama’s Division of Economic Development and Outreach. Sumter County is one of 10 participating counties in Alabama and currently the only one to have completed the two-year certification.

    The initiative is designed to improve the skills of an area’s workforce and afford a competitive advantage for the community. Sumter County’s leadership team included a cross-agency force of local government officials, educators, and several work force, economic development, and business leaders.

    “This certification is a strong reflection of the power in a combined community effort,” explained Dr. Tina N. Jones, executive director of UWA’s Division of Economic Development and Outreach. “This certification cannot happen without commitment from educators in our local county school system, county and city governments, business and community leaders, and the University. When we all work together this way to achieve a goal, absolutely everyone benefits.”

    UWA President Ken Tucker echoed her remarks, adding that the University is proud to partner with agencies across the region and representatives throughout the community to reach high standards and improve the quality of life in the Sumter County community and in the Black Belt Region as a whole.

    “This accomplishment is a perfect example of the many ways the University can, and will, work with the community to positively impact the citizens of not only our local community, but our entire region,” Tucker said. “We want to pool our resources and personnel with supporting agencies, governing bodies, and organizations to accomplish the goals that we alone cannot reach. With more partnerships like the team that has led this initiative, there is no end to the capacity for growth and empowerment we can offer to the greater community.”

    The leadership team traveled to four required ACT Work Ready Communities Academies, two-day sessions designed to help participants identify the skill gaps in a work force and to quantify the existing skill level. With this, educators can build pathways aligned to the needs of business and industry.

    Jones said the team’s participation in the Academies was made possible through a grant, “Reimagining the Delta Workforce,” from the Delta Regional Authority. Sanquenetta Thompson, program coordinator for UWA’s Division of Economic Development and Outreach, served as principal investigator for the grant.

    Also on the traveling team with Thompson and Jones were UWA Director of Economic Development Allison Brantley, York Mayor Gena Robbins, and Sumter County Commissioner Drucilla Jackson. The traveling team was assisted at home by a 20-member county leadership team.

    “We are most grateful to Delta Regional Authority for the support they have shown for workforce and economic development in our region,” Jones said.

    The ACT Work Ready Communities program meets three specific needs through a framework designed to make the entire nation more competitive and close the skills gap that threatens to paralyze the economy. The framework follows the concept that change starts at the grassroots level to link workforce development to education, align with economic development needs of communities, regions and states, and to match individuals to jobs based on skills levels.

    “Counties seeking certification as an ACT Work Ready Community have up to two years to complete the program,” Jones said. “Our team completed it in less than one year. Our public program launched in December 2015, and we received confirmation of our certification at the end of August 2016.”

    Sumter County’s certification has been granted following the completion of a designated number of individuals in the workforce earning a National Career Readiness Certificate and a number of employers in the area recognizing the NCRC.

    NCRC is a portable, industry-recognized credential that clearly identifies an individual’s “WorkKeys” skills in reading for information, applied math, and locating information—all skills that are required for 77 percent of jobs based on ACT JobPro database of more than 21,000 jobs profiled.

    Sumter County’s team surpassed each of the goals set for its certification. The goal of 41 emerging members of the workforce to complete NCRC was surpassed when 169 successfully earned the certificate. A goal of 10 current members of the workforce was surpassed when 51 earned the NCRC, and for the transitioning workforce, a goal of 61 was surpassed as 64 earned the NCRC. The overall goal was for 112 members of the workforce to earn NCRC, and 284 earned the certificate. All 10 employers listed in the program’s goals now recognize NCRC. They join more than 14,000 other employers across the U.S. who recognized the NCRC.

    The ACT Work Ready designation shows Sumter County’s commitment to helping grow business and industry opportunities, equip individuals with the information needed to pursue a job, urge policy makers to develop protocol for assessing the skills gap, and provide economic developers the tools to market the quality of the area’s workforce.

    To learn more about ACT Work Ready Communities, visit www.workreadycommunities.org.

    Contact UWA’s Division of Economic Development and Outreach at 205-652-3828.

    PHOTO: Sumter County has just become the first in Alabama to earn certification as an ACT Work Ready Community. The leadership team traveled to four WRC Academies through the support of the Delta Regional Authority’s “Reimagining the Delta Workforce” grant. Pictured left to right at one of the academies are (front) Mike Davis, Sumter County Chamber of Commerce, Chemical Waste Management; Drusilla Jackson, Sumter County Commission; Mike Marshall, Chairman, Delta Regional Authority; Sanquenetta Thompson, Project Director, UWA; Allison Brantley, UWA's Director of Economic Development; Gena Robbins, Mayor of York; Dr. Tina N. Jones, Executive Director, UWA’s Division of Economic Development & Outreach; and Marcus Campbell. Sumter County Commission. (Back) Pat Ezell, Sumter County Commission; Tommy Armistead; Sumter County Commission; Ralph Howard, Alabama House State Representative; Bobby Williams, Sumter County Industrial Development Board; and AJ McCampbell, Alabama House State Representative. 
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