Regional effort under way to expand Work Ready program

Curtis Englehart
Curtis Englehart

Phil Castle, The Business Times

Mesa County remains the first and only certified Work Ready Community in Colorado. But that could soon change.

Efforts are underway to expand the program in other West Slope counties, said Curtis Englehart, director of the Mesa County Workforce Center in Grand Junction.

That means tools will be available on a  regional basis to quantify the skills of the labor force as well as help businesses analyze jobs to determine what training and skills are needed to perform them, Englehart said.

Delta, Gunnison, Ouray and Montrose counties all could join in an initiative to become Work Ready Communities.

Mesa County offers a model for earning certification, Englehart said.

Certification means a community has taken steps to quantify the skills of the labor force, enlist the participation of employers and help businesses profile jobs.

In Mesa County, about 4,000 National Career Readiness Certificates have been issued to individuals. The certificates mean they’ve demonstrated on tests the skills necessary to perform varying proportions of the 21,000 jobs profiled in a national data base.

Of those earning certificates in Mesa County, more than 2,000 attained the silver level. That means they demonstrated the skills to perform 67 percent of the jobs in the data base. Nearly 750 attained the gold level, meaning they can handle 93 percent of the jobs.

Those who’ve tested in Mesa County have performed 13 percent higher than the national average, Englehart said.

The certificates help in better matching applicants with job openings and allowing employers to focus their searches not so much on skills, but fit, he said. “When you’re able to hire based on fit, man that’s really powerful.”

Nearly 130 Mesa County employers recognize the certificates and support the Work Ready program, Englehart said,

The cumulative information from the certificates also is valuable in promoting economic development and showing in objective terms sufficient talent is available in the local work force for businesses considering opening operations in the area, he said.

The other component of the Work Ready Community offers free job profiling for employers, helping them analyze the tasks and skills required for a position. The profiles then can be used in conjunction with career readiness certificates and other information to find the best applicants.

Other West Slope counties are in the process of launching efforts to earn Work Ready certification, setting up test sites and meeting goals for certificates and employee support, Englehart said

Meanwhile, efforts continue in Mesa County to maintain certification. That includes issuing more certificates, conducting more job profiles and reaffirming employer support, he said.

More people are relocating to the Grand Valley, many of them without first finding jobs. Still, businesses face challenges in filling openings, Englehart said.

The Work Ready Community program can help in connecting applicants looking for jobs with businesses looking for employees, he said.

For more information about the Work Ready Community program and other services offered at the Mesa County Workforce Center, call 257-2215 or visit https://mcwfc.us/. For more information about how employers can support the Work Ready Community program, call Curtis Englehart at 248-7562.