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story.lead_photo.caption Miller County Judge Cathy Harrison

Miller County and the Texarkana USA Regional Chamber of Commerce have teamed up to engage in the process of becoming a certified ACT Work Ready Community.

This practice demonstrates the county's efforts to develop a strong workforce pipeline that is desirable to employers, economic developers and current and future citizens of the county, by providing opportunities for national certification to local employees and students in Miller County.

The ACT WRC initiative empowers states, regions and counties with data, processes and tools that drive economic growth by identifying skills gaps and quantifying the skill level of their workforce. Participants can leverage the ACT WorkKeys National Career Readiness Certificate to measure and close skills gaps in their workforce development efforts.

ACT WorkKeys NCRC and ACT WRC also are used as criteria by Site Selection Magazine to rank business locations.

"Miller County is excited to partner with the Texarkana USA Regional Chamber of Commerce to launch ACT Work Ready Communities initiatives that use the ACT WorkKeys NCRC as the basis for industry-driven efforts that link education, workforce and economic development," Miller County Judge Cathy Harrison said.

Robbin Bass, director of business retention and expansion for the Chamber, said they are over halfway through the process of receiving a gold star to become a Work Ready Community. She expects the initiative to be about 75% of the way finished by the end of 2021.

"If we want to expand our local businesses, we need to help them find talented employees," Bass said. "And if we want to bring in new businesses to our area, we have to have talented people in the field working who have taken these credentialing tests to show that (they are) ready to go into the workforce."

Bass said that Chamber Board Chair Jennifer Harland has been looking into this initiative for several years and the Chamber has been looking into ways to pursue it for five or six years.

Members of the ACT WRC team will meet with local employers, policymakers, educators and economic developers to reach established goals and build a sustainable WRC model to fit community needs.

"We need our local employers to get on board," she said. "They don't have to require it, but just recognize and recommend it. We also need our (school districts) to get on board with their career technical programs."

Bass said they will be working with school districts and career technical education programs so students coming out of high school can take WorkKeys assessments and receive national certifications, with assessments in applied math, workplace documents and graphic literacy.

"They can take that certification and take it anywhere in the United States with them," she said. "Of course, we want them to stay right here. But it shows a potential employer that they have passed all of these credentials and they have gotten this certificate."

(For more information, visit workreadycommunities.org or view ACT's workforce solutions at act.org/workforce. For additional information on the Chamber and the Business Retention & Expansion initiatives, contact Bass at [email protected] or 903-792-7191.)

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