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Jackson, Habersham counties join certified skills program
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Both Jackson and Habersham counties have joined the ranks of Certified Work Ready Communities.

The Georgia Work Ready initiative was launched in 2006 by Gov. Sonny Perdue and the Georgia Chamber of Commerce. The goal of the program is to boost economic development statewide by showing potential employers that there are workers available with certified skills.

Out of 159 counties in the state, 107 have committed to working toward certification — with the latest additions, only around 55 have completed the process. Other area, certified communities include Barrow, Franklin and Stephens counties.

“These communities are setting the stage for attracting businesses and offering job seekers meaningful employment,” said Perdue.
“Businesses recognizing the potential of Work Ready bolster Georgia’s ability to compete for new industries.”

To become certified, communities must reach several goals — including a high school graduation rate of at least 70 percent.

Communities must also ensure that at least 3 percent of existing workers and 25 percent of the available work force are certified as work ready.

For employees to be certified, they must complete the WorkKeys Assessment that was developed by ACT. The assessment measures an individual’s potential to succeed in the work force by measuring their aptitude for reading and applied math, and locating information.

During the certification process, 1,363 Jackson County residents earned Work Ready certification and the high school graduation rate increased from 71.7 percent to 76.9 percent. In Habersham, 1,225 residents earned their certification and the graduation rate increased from 70.9 percent to 75.7 percent.

“Being certified helps our community in a number of ways. It says to industries that are considering locating here that we have a skilled work force,” said Shane Short, Jackson County Area Chamber of Commerce president and CEO.

“It helps job seekers because they are able to show that they are skilled at a certain level and it also helps businesses owners that use Work Ready to locate potential employees.”

Because Hall County has a larger population and work force pool, county officials say that it will take longer to meet the work ready community requirements.

Although the goal has not been reached yet, county officials say they are still working toward certification.

To maintain its certified status, communities must continue to increase high school graduation rates until they reach at least 75 percent and must also ensure that at least one-third of the available work force continues to earn Work Ready certification.