We Lead Helps Bring Skilled Iowa Initiative to West Liberty High School Students

We LeadWEST LIBERTY, Iowa — Juniors in West Liberty will have an easier time deciding on a career and quite possibly finding a job after graduation thanks to West Liberty Economic Area Development, known as We Lead, Iowa Workforce Development and the West Liberty High School.

Through the efforts of school superintendant Steven Hanson and Karen Lathrop, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach advancement specialist and former We Lead director, 79 West Liberty juniors were able to take ACT’s National Career Readiness Certificate exam in December 2012. The purpose of the NCRC exam is to measure “real world” skills that employers deem critical.

“This project was initiated through We Lead over the past year to help students better understand the workforce skills they possess and help [West Liberty] as a community determine a skills baseline to identify what gaps might remain in our workforce’s skills,” Lathrop said.

The exam consists of three assessments: applied mathematics, locating information and reading for information. The questions in these assessments reflect situations in the workplace. According to the NCRC website, combining measures of cognitive skills and of work-related behaviors increases the accuracy of predictions about an individual’s success at work or in training. Students scoring from 3 to 7 on the exam earn certificates in one of four skill levels, the highest being Platinum.

One West Liberty student, Grace Millage, made history by becoming the first student in Iowa to earn a Platinum certificate. Nine students earned Gold certificates and 59 students earned Silver and Bronze certificates. The students were recognized during a school assembly March 1.

“This project aligns with both ISU Extension and Outreach signature K–12 outreach initiatives and economic development,” Lathrop said. “The state of Iowa launched the Skilled Iowa program that ... all Iowans are able to take the exam for free.”

We Lead president Lee Geertz noted that the project also fits well with We Lead’s economic development goals by encouraging young residents to think about their future college and workforce pursuits. “Economic development means educating the future workforce,” Geertz said.

Any Iowan is eligible to participate in the Career Readiness Certificate testing program. To learn more, visit the Iowa Workforce Development website at http://www.iowaworkforce.org/region14/ncrc.htm.