Business leaders take steps to improve workforce

Published 12:09 am Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Kathy Howard, vice president of workforce and client development for North Carolina’s Eastern Region, could cite a number of examples of how being a “Work-Ready Community” has benefited the area.
There was the homeless man who earned a Career Readiness Certificate (CRC) and ended up with two job offers. A high school student successfully completed work-training certification and talked her dad into earning a certification, too.
Howard spoke to the Committee of 100 Business and Education Innovation Council (formerly the Workforce
Partnership) about the Work Ready Community program at Monday’s council meeting.
In 2011, Eastern Region launched the state’s first Work Ready Communities pilot program to encourage collaboration and raise the skill levels of the workforce in 13 counties. Beaufort County was not involved in the program, but the Business and Education Innovation Council made it a priority to work toward earning the designation in the coming year.
Counties must meet four criteria to earn the Work Ready certification. First, three county leaders must sign a letter of commitment to workforce excellence. Second, the county must increase the graduation rate by one percent a year, with the minimum acceptable rate being 70 percent and the goal 80 percent.
The county must also increase the number of CRCs issued to residents by two percent each year, with a minimum rate of five percent and annual progress toward the goal of 25 percent.
As the final criterion, counties must demonstrate employer commitment to workforce excellence by obtaining written support from 10 of the 20 largest employers that prefer or require the CRC for recruitment and hiring.
Howard said Eastern Region would be happy to help Beaufort in the process.
“Pitt County is our border. Beaufort is not a part of our region, but we’re willing to help because it just makes sense,” Howard said. “We want to establish this program statewide. But, we’ve got to get with the state leaders. That’s not going to be just us.”
Bob Heuts, head of Beaufort County’s Economic Development, said the Eastern Region obtained grants that helped launch their efforts.
“Now, they have four or five counties that are actually Work-Ready certified,” he said. “We don’t have to have that (financial) support, necessarily. The bottom line is we’ve got people on board to try to do things differently. So, we’re excited about that.”
To learn more about Work Ready Communities, visit