UNION COUNTY — When it comes to recruiting industry in the 21st century the most important resource any community has is a workforce ready to meet the needs of those industries and that’s just what Union County has to offer prospective industries.
In a Monday morning ceremony on the steps of the Union County Courthouse, State Rep. Mike Forrest, presented Union County Supervisor Frank Hart and SC House District 42 Rep. Mike Anthony with the ACT Work Ready Communities Certificate for Union County.
Forrest, who serves on the State Workforce Development Board and chairs the Collaboration and Partnership Committee responsible for the Work Ready Communities Initiative, discusses the certificate and what it means to a community’s efforts to recruit industry.
“I’m also Director of Economic Development at Spartanburg Community College and over the almost thirty years that I’ve been involved in economic development I’ve met with hundreds of projects and at some point in the conversation they always ask ‘Can you provide us with the workforce we need?” Forrest said. “We always answer yes, but we could never quantify it.
“Our future success or failure in the economic development arena will depend on our ability to show proof that we can provide to prospects, looking to locate their companies in our communities, a qualified, highly skilled workforce,” he said. “We as a state have chosen the Work Ready Community Initiative as a way to ensure that we have such a workforce pipeline in place. Goals were set for all forty-six counties in our state.”
Forrest said those goals have been met by all of South Carolina’s 46 counties.’
“I’m happy to report to you today that Union County has met their goals and is now a Certified Work Ready Community,” Forrest said. “This is a great achievement and one that I know that you are very proud of.”
Forrest then presented the certificate to Hart and Anthony, congratulating them and all the rest who worked to achieve that goal including City of Union Mayor Harold Thompson; Sims Middle School Principal Eric Childers; Union County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Torance Inman; Ann Angermeir, Dana Wood, and DeWayne Hatchett, all of the Upstate Workforce Development Board; Katherine Pendergrass of SCWorks; Kathy Jo Lancaster, formerly of the Union Campus of Spartanburg Community College and now with the Union County Development Board; and representatives of Timken, Gestamp, Gonvauto, and Carlisle Finishing.
In presenting the certificate, Forrest added that “South Carolina is the only state in the nation that has all its counties Work Ready Certified.
Monday’s ceremony was announced last by the Upstate Workforce Board in a press release that stated that the ACT Work Ready Communities initiative had been established in 2012 to “provide states, regions and communities with a framework for community-based workforce development to drive economic growth. Participating organizations use the ACT National Career Readiness Certificate™, based on three foundational workplace skills assessments from the ACT WorkKeys® system, to measure and close skills gaps. The approach allows a region to align its workforce development efforts to strengthen economic development.”
The announcement further stated that “the foundation of a community’s certification is based on individuals at the county level across the current, transitioning and emerging workforce earning a National Career Readiness Certificate (NCRC) and employers recognizing the NCRC. The NCRC is a portable, industry-recognized credential that clearly identifies an individual’s WorkKeys® skills in reading for information, applied math and locating information — skills required for 77 percent of jobs based on ACT JobPro database.”
Also speaking at Monday’s ceremony was Lancaster who said that “becoming a Certified Work Ready Community is Union County’s best economic development strategy. The future of our economic health lies in the quality and readiness of our workforce. It is essential to our growth. A skilled workforce and continuous training of our current and emerging workers will make us more attractive to site selectors and their business clients.”
Thompson also spoke, calling the certification “something we’ve been talking about a long time and it’s come to fruition. We’ve got our certification and we need to build on it with more training.”
In accepting the certificate, Anthony said that “this validates that we can prove to industry as it comes in that we have a workforce of individuals ready to fill the jobs they have.”
For his part, Hart said that the certification “is another part of our strategy to develop the workforce in Union. Work Keys give us a means of measuring the skills of the workforce and identifying any gaps and addressing them through training.”
Charles Warner can be reached at 864-762-4090.