June 1, 2013
The Dan River Region Collaborative has been selected to represent the Commonwealth of Virginia as a regional pilot in the national ACT Certified Work Ready Communities Academy, announced Dr. Julie J. Brown, Project Director of the Dan River Region Collaborative.


The Dan River Region is the first region among seven states to be accepted into the academy with ACT. Membership in the academy will help the region be a national leader in developing the local workforce skills necessary to meet current employer demands and attract businesses to the region.


The Certified Work Ready Communities initiative, powered by the ACT® National Career Readiness Certificate (NCRC™), helps individuals pursue certification of their measurable skills to accurately predict work readiness and job performance. The NCRC™ assesses skills in three foundational areas: locating information, reading for information and applied mathematics. The Plus version will also assess soft skills such as willingness to work in teams, problem solving ability and evidence of work ethic.


The NCRC™ Plus benefits employers by helping them make better hiring decisions, resulting in reduced training time and cost, lower turnover and higher productivity, and it helps communities measure and close skill gaps, allowing them to market the quality of their workforce.


"The Southern Virginia counties included in this effort have had the highest unemployment rates in the Commonwealth for more than five years," commented Brown. "This effort to certify foundational skills and offer training to fill identified gaps will assist in job placement efforts, resulting in a higher tax base for the region. The effort is also measurable based on the ability to quantify certifications in the region which we hope will help us create new and expanded recruitment opportunities as we will be better prepared to demonstrate that we have a work-ready community to employers who are seeking to locate, relocate, or expand in our region."


In addition to Brown, members of the Dan River Region's Certified Work Ready Community team are Leigh Cockram, Executive Director of the Southern Virginia Regional Alliance; Kim Adkins, Executive Director of the West Piedmont Workforce Investment Board; Laurie S. Moran, President of the Danville Pittsylvania County Chamber of Commerce; Mindy Fast, Coordinator of Customized Training and Continuing Education of the Virginia Community College System; and Katherine DeRosear, Director of Workforce Development of the Virginia Manufacturers Association.


In applying for the academy, Virginia's Secretary of Education, Laura Fornash, stated, "We appreciate the opportunity for these state and regional leaders to participate in the Academy and hope that the experience leads to measurable increases in Virginia's rate of CRC attainment as well as other workforce credentials."


The Dan River Region team began participation in the 12-month Academy this past August. The Academy gives regional and state leaders the opportunity to collaborate with other state leaders on workforce development strategies. "Being invited to participate as the first regional team in this program means that the Dan River Region will help shape the national conversation and movement to close the skills gap in the workforce, and be on the forefront of transforming our local economy and giving our region a competitive edge," said Brown.


"This certification will assure employers already located in the Dan River Region, as well as those looking to call our region home, that Southern Virginia is committed to providing businesses with the skilled workers needed to fill the jobs of today and tomorrow. Having a tool that allows us to validate the skill levels of the workers in our region will be a great economic development tool," said Leigh Cockram, Executive Director of the Southern Virginia Regional Alliance.


The team, in partnership with the region's three community colleges (Danville, Patrick Henry, and Southside Virginia), has secured a Tomorrow's Workforce Now grant which will provide 400 NCRC assessments to jump-start the effort. Twenty-two regional employers have signed on to participate in pilot-testing the NCRC Plus assessment to determine value and their level of commitment in using the assessment for skill validation.


If you are interested in learning more about the Work Ready Community effort or, as an employer, you would be interested in learning more about the NCRC, please contact Dr. Julie Brown at 434-836-5674 or juliejbrown@gmail.com