Ralls County achieves Certified Work Ready Community status through cooperative effort of economic development officials, area employers, elected officials, Ralls County R-II school staff

The Ralls County employers and potential employees can take advantage of a new tool for determining successful career paths after the county became a Certified Work Ready Community (CWRC) on Monday, Sept. 24.

The County elected officials joined representatives from the Northeast Missouri Economic Development Council, the Missouri Division of Workforce Development, Ralls County R-II School District and other local organizations to celebrate Ralls becoming the 71st county in Missouri to receive the distinction.

Ralls County is among 413 CWRC-certified counties in 26 states. Marion and Pike County have nearly completed the CWRC certification process, as well.

Mark Grieshaber, chairman of workforce development with the Northeast Missouri Economic Development Council and U.S. Bank representative, said he regularly hears about college students who decided to choose a new career path before earning a degree who still have to pay thousands of dollars in student debt from their prior studies.

With the applied skills of the WorkKeys Assessment, students and employees will have help finding a career path that they will more likely maintain.

“It's an event to achieve certification, but it is an ongoing process, and now the work continues to start — working with the local schools, local employers to continue to do testing on job skills and be able to validate with our employers what the skill sets of our workforce are and make sure that they are aligned with the job skills that our employers need,” Grieshaber said.

Grieshaber commended Ralls County R-II School Superintendent Tara Lewis and Mark Twain Senior High School Guidance Counselor Adria Palmer for providing the American College Testing's (ACT's) WorkKeys Assessment to high school seniors.

Lewis said the idea came about during a past Workforce Summit. The assessment focuses on vital areas for career success, including applied math, graphic literacy and workplace documents. It is free to students 18 years of age and older. Grant funding covered the testing fee for 17-year-old students.

Seniors who completed the assessment received certificates with bronze, silver, gold or platinum designations to include with their career portfolios.

Four faculty members took the assessments with the students to provide good-natured competition with the students. The faculty members and ten seniors received platinum-level certification.

Julie Carter, assistant director of programs with the Missouri Division of Workforce Development, presented a proclamation on behalf of Gov. Mike Parson to commemorate Ralls County's achievement. She commended all of the people who worked together to make the certification possible.

“As you all know, this process is not easy,” she said. “It takes the entire community to achieve — business, local chambers, economic development workforce boards, job centers and staff, technical centers, high schools, community colleges — and of course the examinees, who are probably the most important. You can't achieve this without their buy-in.”

trevor.mcdonald@courierpost.com