The Missouri Department of Economic Development (DED) today announced Boone County has achieved official designation as a Certified Work Ready Community (CWRC). The initiative helps communities validate the skills and knowledge of their emerging, transitioning and current workforce to the business community.
“In addition to being home to the state’s flagship university and to major employers like Boone Hospital and Shelter Insurance, Columbia was also ranked eighth this year on a list of 15 Best Cities for Entrepreneurs to Live and Launch. It’s more important than ever to make sure that businesses in Boone County, small and large alike, have access to a robust pipeline of talent. This designation builds onto the area’s reputable workforce, which is also rich with manufacturing skills and knowledge, and provides a foundation for future economic growth,” said DED Director Mike Downing.
Missouri’s Certified Work Ready Communities is a voluntary initiative guided by key community leaders, including local elected officials, economic development, business leaders, chambers of commerce, educators and workforce development. The initiative links workforce development to education; aligns with the economic needs of communities, regions and the state; & helps close the skills gap by matching individuals to jobs based on skill levels.
“Certified Work Ready status demonstrates Boone County’s commitment to support rigorous workforce development and provide a strong workforce for our employers,” said Boone County Commissioner Karen Miller. “This certification strengthens our local economy by helping job seekers document their skills and find appropriate employment, empowering employers to identify applicants with job-specific skills, and showcasing our community’s strong workforce to potential employers of the future.”
The ceremony was held at the Regional Economic Development Inc. (REDI) main office. Local supporting employers include The City of Columbia, Boone County Government, Columbia Public Schools, Boone Hospital Center, Veterans United Home Loans and more.
In 2012, Missouri was selected to be one of the first four states to participate in the CWRC initiative, and in 2013, Jasper County became the first CWRC in the nation. Missouri now has 83 counties that are actively participating in the CWRC initiative and 38 fully-certified counties. New certifications are considered on a quarterly basis.
“Being a Certified Work Ready Community is an important distinction for Columbia and Boone County, and we are proud to be a part of this community effort,” said the Superintendent of the Columbia Public Schools Dr. Peter Stiepleman. “Nearly 300 Columbia Area Career Center students participated in the ACT WorkKeys assessment. These assessments helped career center teachers identify gaps in students’ skills that would impact employability.”
CWRC status makes communities more attractive to businesses because it offers a feedback loop for what’s needed by different players in the dynamic 21st Century workforce. Specifically, benefits from CWRC certification include:
- Workers better understand what skills are required by employers and how to prepare themselves for success.
- Businesses can more effectively communicate their workforce needs to area education and workforce training programs.
- Educators have better tools for closing any skill gaps by establishing career pathways for students with stackable industry-recognized credentials.
- Economic development organizations are better equipped with an on-demand reporting tool to promote the quality of their workforce.