Barry County grabs the gold as a Work Ready Community

C.W.R.C. Seal Barry County 2016Gov. Nixon’s administration presented Barry County’s official proclamation on Friday as a Certified Work Ready Community (CWRC). The designation is a sign of Barry County’s excellence in preparing students and transitioning adults for the workforce. Barry joins other certified areas in the Southwest Missouri workforce region, including Barton, Jasper, Lawrence, and Newton Counties.

“This certification is the result of outstanding teamwork on behalf of Barry County,” said Mike Downing, director of the Missouri Department of Economic Development. “This took cooperation and energy of community leaders, school districts and leaders in education, local companies and more. I’m proud that Barry County has distinguished itself with this nationally-recognized workforce accomplishment.”

The announcement was made Friday at the Monett Chamber of Commerce, a supporter of Barry County’s CWRC efforts. Several local companies using the National Career Readiness Certificate (NCRC) in their hiring processes were present at the event as well. Gov. Nixon’s proclamation follows an event in Barry County recognizing the CWRC honors in conjunction with National Manufacturing Day.

Barry County’s certification took the coordinated efforts of 14 different school districts, three partnering chambers of commerce in Cassville, Monett and Shell Knob—all of which rallied their members to offer employer letters of support—as well as other community and business parties.

Organizing student testing was a first priority in Barry County and became a great way to spread the message and gain support for the program. The Scott Regional Technology Center in Monett acquired a grant from the Missouri Department of Economic Development to aid with testing.

“Monett has a unique situation that we have more jobs than people to fill them,” said Jeff Meredith, executive director of the Monett Chamber of Commerce. “Proving that we have a qualified workforce by becoming a work-ready community helps us to retain current employers and encourage local expansions at the same time.”

The designation, made by American College Testing (ACT), aligns workforce training programs with the economic development needs of communities, matches appropriate applicants to jobs based on skill level, and strengthens businesses by strengthening the workforce.

In 2012 Missouri was selected to be one of the first four states to participate in the CWRC initiative, and in 2013 Jasper County became the first CWRC in the nation. Missouri now has 75 counties that are actively participating in the CWRC initiative and 25 fully-certified counties.

Other key partners in the certification process include local employers MariCorp and Regal Beloit among others and organizations including Scott Regional Technology Center, Crowder College, Drury University, Monett Chamber of Commerce, Cassville Area Chamber of Commerce, Shell Knob Chamber of Commerce, City of Monett, Barry County, Southwest Missouri Workforce Investment Board and more.

CWRC status makes communities more attractive to businesses because it offers a feedback loop for what’s needed by different players in the dynamic 21st Century workforce. Specifically, benefits from CWRC certification include:

  • Workers better understand what skills are required by employers and how to prepare themselves for success;
  • Businesses can more effectively communicate their workforce needs to area education and workforce training programs;
  • Educators have better tools for closing any skill gaps by establishing career pathways for students with stackable industry-recognized credentials; and
  • Economic development organizations are better equipped with an on-demand reporting tool to promote the quality of their workforce.

For more information on CWRC in the Joplin/Southwest Missouri area, visit workready.info online or contact Frank Neely with the Workforce Innovation Board at 417-206-1717. Information on state level CWRC efforts as well as Missouri Works Training may be found online at ded.mo.gov.