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Community nearing work-ready status

Photo submitted/Jackie Martin, Jane Hulon, Dexter Holloway, Ronnie Nettles, Cindy Hyde-Smith, Becky Currie, Sally Doty, Bobby Rush, Kenny Goza and Vince Mangold all gather for a photo Monday at the conclusion of the launch for an initiative to make Brookhaven and Lincoln County a Work Ready Community.

Photo submitted/Jackie Martin, Jane Hulon, Dexter Holloway, Ronnie Nettles, Cindy Hyde-Smith, Becky Currie, Sally Doty, Bobby Rush, Kenny Goza and Vince Mangold all gather for a photo Monday at the conclusion of the launch for an initiative to make Brookhaven and Lincoln County a Work Ready Community.

An initiative to certify Brookhaven and Lincoln County as ACT Work Ready communities is gathering steam.

Several prominent community members met Monday in the Brookhaven Building on Beltline Road to attend the launch of the initiative.

Through the Work Keys assessment, or test, ACT Work Ready Communities document the skills of the local workforce in the areas of reading for information, applied math and locating information. ACT said those skills were required by 77 percent of jobs in its Job Pro database.

The test is divided among three separate groups: the current workforce, the transitioning workforce and the emerging workforce. Transitioning workforce includes those who are currently unemployed, in a GED or adult education program or who are transitioning back to the workforce from active-duty military. The emerging workforce includes high school juniors or seniors, college students and recent graduates.

Anyone over 18 years of age can take the assessment free of charge at Copiah-Lincoln Community College or a Win Job Center, according to Kenny Goza, who spearheaded the initiative in Lincoln County. The assessment costs $35 for students under 18. The results from the assessment will be used by businesses to gauge the skill level of the local workforce.

Co-Lin President Ronnie Nettles said the initiative will be a benefit to the workforce and to the local economy.

“This is about economic development,” Nettles said at the event. “It allows us to attract business and industry to this area, because they know the skill level we have available.”

Kenny Goza, Jane Hulon, Cindy Hyde-Smith, Dexter Holloway and Jackie Martin also spoke at the event with Nettles.

According to Goza, the idea to get Lincoln County involved in the program came to him when he saw Adams County doing something similar last year. After holding a community meeting, Goza said there was interest in the program he said will improve the local workforce.

“To grow, we’ve got to grow our workforce,” he said.

The requirements for qualifying as a certified Work Ready community are determined by its size, and Goza said Lincoln County is well on its way. Goza said 89 of the required 147 members of the emerging workforce have been tested as well as 86 of the 113 members of the transitioning workforce. The county has already reached its goal for the current workforce, having tested 87 out of a required 20.

Local employers are also required to sign a document showing support for the program, and Goza said he’s collected 13 of the required 39.

“We’re pretty close,” he said. “With a little bit of work, I think by no later than spring of next year we should have met all these goals.”

Goza said Co-Lin has been working hard on outreach for potential GED students.

“We’re out recruiting and trying to populate as many people as we can to get them employable,” he said.

For the emerging workforce, Goza said they are currently talking with local schools on getting students tested.

“If we can get every senior tested, that gives us a baseline of what the workforce looks like coming out of high school,” he said.