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Leaders in Watauga County Throwing Support Behind Work Ready Communities Initiative


Local economic development and education leaders in Watauga County are throwing their support behind the new NCWorks Work Ready Communities initiative that will help local employers find the right workers with the right, evidence-based skills for the positions they need.

“Often employers can’t find workers with the right kinds of skills for the jobs they have,” says Joe Furman, Director of Watauga County Planning and Inspections and Economic Development, “being a Work Ready Community will help change that.”

ACT Work Ready Communities improve the work readiness and the skills of the local workforce.   Simultaneously local businesses get an efficient and reliable way to hone in on skilled job candidates.

An integral part of the Work Ready Communities initiative is the National Career Readiness Certificate (NCRC). Launched in 2011, the NCRC is a portable credential that demonstrates achievement and a certain level of workplace employability skills that measure “real world” skills that employers believe are critical to job success. Questions are based on situations in the everyday work world related to skills required for 77% of jobs: applied mathematics, locating information and reading for information.

As a part of North Carolina’s comprehensive workforce development effort, a statewide initiative was launched to certify counties as NCWorks Certified Work Ready Communities.   Participating counties become certified as “work ready” when they meet certain goals based on population, the number of people earning the NCRC, and the number of employers that recognize the value of the NCRC.

Watauga County has set goals to receive commitments of support from 82 businesses over the next two years. Currently, 15 businesses have endorsed the initiative including Boone Rentals, Blue Ridge Electric Membership Corporation, Caldwell Community College & Technical Institute, Hospitality Mints, LifeStore Bank and LifeStore Insurance, Mystery Hill, the Town of Boone, Watauga County, and Watauga County Schools among others.

Currently, North Carolina has 21 counties participating – including Watauga County neighbors Ashe, Caldwell, and Wilkes – and two counties officially certified: Lenoir and Wayne counties in eastern North Carolina.

Becoming a Work Ready Community benefits the whole of Watauga County. Business and industry know exactly what foundational skills they need; individuals understand what skills are required by employers; educators can close the skills gap; and policy makers can measure the skills gap in a consistent manner.

“Everyone has a stake in making Watauga County more competitive and addressing the skill gap that could bog down the local economy,” said Adrian Tait, Director of the High Country Workforce Development Board. “The Work Ready Communities initiative brings workforce development, economic development, and education together in a way that can affect real change at a local level.”

Local employer participation is key to Watauga’s success, and signing on is simple.

For more information about Work Ready Communities in North Carolina visit www.workreadycommunities.org/NC or contact the local NCWorks Career Center at (828) 265-5385.

Testing for the NCRC is administered through Caldwell Community College; however, individuals interested in earning their NCRC should contact the NCWorks Career Center at (828) 265-5385.

In addition, Watauga County Schools offers the NCRC to graduating seniors as one of the credentials they can earn.

Local coordinating partners of the Work Ready Communities initiative include Boone Chamber of Commerce, Caldwell Community College & Technical Institute, High Country Workforce Development Board, Watauga County Economic Development, and Watauga County Schools.