The Lake of the Ozarks workforce may be ready for more jobs, but now the business community is looking to prove it.

The Lake of the Ozarks workforce may be ready for more jobs, but now the business community is looking to prove it.

Lake Area Chamber Executive Director K.C. Cloke recently promoted participation in a program that’s new to the area, though not to Missouri. The Work Ready certification has been enacted at some level in a majority of Missouri counties and could provide multiple economic benefits to the region.

“The biggest thing we hear is workforce,” commented Cloke.

She and others are encouraging the local business community to sign up to participate and show support of the Work Ready program.

Work Ready is a practical career-skills certification program connected to the WorkKeys test administered by ACT - yes, this is the same organization that does college testing, but this is much different.

A three-category exam overall, the test covers Applied Math, Reading for Information and Locating Information. Each category includes questions at different skill levels with questions that can range in math from the ability to make change to calculating how much tile is needed to cover a room - both examples from sample.

Locating Information can range from reading a pressure gauge on a tank to determining shrink-swell potential for soil to be used as road fill based on charts and diagrams. Reading for Information offers basic memos and work instructions of varying complexity and asks questions related to the information provided.

The tests can be administered in a few different ways.

First, with another test being dropped and possible changes coming to ACT requirements and funding from the state, local schools are considering offering the test to students who may not be college bound after high school.

This is part of a renewed effort within many districts and the state to offer more practical education and related certifications to students, instead of basing so much of performance evaluation on college preparation.

Students can take the test to become Work Ready certified, which they can then show to potential employers. The test will show what level they scored in the different categories so employers could factor that in to hiring decisions, which otherwise often have to just rely on an interview and maybe some references.

While students are one part of the equation, this program is also aimed at adults who may be unemployed, underemployed or just looking to switch careers. The Missouri Career Center in Linn Creek already administers the test in the Lake region.

The test offers the same advantages to these adults as to the students.

But the program also benefits employers, and indeed business/employer support is key to making the whole system work. They must recognize and use the certification program in their hiring process or in identifying training needs for current employees.

The test is free to both potential employees and employers and can help identify strengths and weaknesses of both potential and current employees. Even just the fact that an applicant is willing to take the test can say something about them - the test takes a few hours to complete.

Participation for the business is free, but for a fee, they can also have staff at the career center profile a position or positions within their organization to match the jobs to certain skill levels tested by Work Keys.

There is also a big-picture component to the Work Ready program.

Through the local Chambers of Commerce and officials, Lake area leaders plan on applying soon to make the region a certified Work Ready community. Once the application is turned in, according to Cloke, the tri-county region will have two years to meet participation goals that are based on population.

Work Ready certification is used by major commercial and manufacturing site selectors looking for a place that offers a community with skills to match their demands, according to Cloke.

While tax abatements used to be one of the number one things these types of businesses looked for when selecting a site, work force capability is now taking over that top slot. Businesses are looking for a community or region with potential employees who are capable in technical aspects as well as soft skills.

For more information on signing up and participating in the Work Ready program, businesses may contact either the Missouri Career Center at 573-346-1766 or call your local Chamber of Commerce. K.C. Cloke can be reached for more information at 573-964-1008.