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Richland, Jackson Parishes recognized as Work Ready Communities

Years of diligent work by local business and education institutions finally paid off last month, as Richland and Jackson Parish were officially recognized as ACT Work Ready Communities

The Work Ready Community designation is gained when the parish's workforce – including students just entering the workforce and existing workers transitioning from one position to another – earn National Career Readiness Certificates, or NCRCs, issued by the organization that also administers ACT testing.

The certification validates an individual’s skills and qualifications for the workforce. NCRCs are recognized by businesses nationally.

Several years ago, Richland Parish Chamber of Commerce Chairman Scott Franklin, Chamber Director Chelsea Higginbotham, Richland Parish School Board Vocational Education Director Stephanie Walker, Monroe Chamber of Commerce President Sue Nicholson and Workforce Development Board-83 were joined by education, government and business leaders from across the parish to explain the benefits of working together to achieve the WRC designation.

Following in the success of other north Louisiana parishes, Jackson initiated its effort to become a certified Work Ready Community in 2018. Pushing the effort there were Jackson Parish Chamber of Commerce Director Wilda Smith, Jackson Parish School Board Ready 2 Work Lead Dr. Robin Potts, Workforce Development Board-83 and North Louisiana Economic Partnership.

Acceptance of the certification is one of the benchmarks existing companies use to determine whether to move into a market area. Site Selector magazine, an influential industry journal now uses NCRC completions in their community assessments as they rank areas to recommend as the best places to do business and where businesses should consider locating.

Industry prospects can be confident that there is a qualified workforce and a development pipeline to provide employees in the future when they learn of the designation of a certified Work Ready Community. Companies may then choose to invest their capital, create jobs and do business.

"As key partners charged with managing the workforce system, we are excited about the opportunities the WorkReady Community distinction affords Jackson Parish," WDB-83 executive director Terri Mitchell said. "Now, current employers and potential new businesses can have confidence in the labor force pipeline necessary to grow and improve their economic footprint. Individual job seekers can utilize the portable, evidence-based credentials to demonstrate they have the skill and aptitude for a particular job. It’s a win for both employers and job seekers throughout the parish."

In 2018, parties interested in the economic future of the two parishes attended “academies” that teach communities how to grow the program and that coincide with the setting of goals for each parish.

The academies set goals Richland Parish must meet to achieve levels of Workforce Readiness. Richland Parish knew it needed 26 employers to support the initiative. The parish currently has nearly 40 on board. Jackson Parish quickly surpassed its goal of 12 employers.

One objective for this initiative is for local businesses to be eager to see NCRCs become part of their employment decision, as they identify stronger potential job candidates, making staffing easier. Some companies may decide to have positions only available to applicants with NCRCs. Others, to grant interview preference to NCRC-certified applicants.

For more information, contact the Richland Parish Chamber of Commerce at 878-7942, or WDB-83 Business Service Team Member Colleen Smith at (318) 728-3348.

In Jackson Parish, contact the Jackson Parish Chamber of Commerce at (318) 259-4693, or the WDB-83 Business Service Team Member Mike Watson at (318) 435-5687 ext. 231.


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