By Dave Ongie
The goal of establishing Washington County as an ACT Work Ready Community has inspired a unified effort among county government, local schools and private businesses, and that effort has begun to bear fruit.
Washington County has accomplished 70 percent of the goals necessary to establish itself as a Work Ready Community, a designation that will make the county more attractive to potential employers looking to locate in our area. One key cog in becoming a Work Ready Community is the performance of high school seniors on the ACT WorkKeys test, an exam designed to measure foundational skills required for success in the workplace.
At Daniel Boone High School, the investment made by the Washington County Commission, the Washington County School System and the First Tennessee Development District paid off in a big way when results from the latest ACT WorkKeys test came in. All told, 113 Daniel Boone seniors took the exam back in November and 33 of them scored at the Platinum level with 30 scoring Gold, 33 Silver and 17 Bronze.
For students looking to go straight into the work force after high school, Daniel Boone teacher Crystal Fink said the National Career Readiness Certificates gained as a result of the testing can open a world of possibilities.
“It is very valuable for those students,” Fink said. “The recognition is there from the employers in our county.”
Fink gave a lot of credit for the high scores to the community and government leaders who have put a high priority on the WorkKeys test. The Washington County Commission has set aside money for students in the county to take the test in the fall and spring at no cost to the student.
Moreover, Fink said funding from the First Tennessee Development District gave her students access to practice materials leading up to November’s test, which undoubtedly boosted their scores.
“They actually secured the funding for our practice curriculum, Fink said. “Our students had unlimited access to the practice material, and I feel that was very beneficial.”
For students planning to go on to college, Fink is hard at work trying to persuade Northeast State and other schools to weigh ACT WorkKeys scores when evaluating applications to highly competitive degree programs. Progress is being made on that front, and progress is also being made in Fink’s mission to help students see the opportunities available to those willing to learn a trade.
“I’m trying to change the environment where students understand that academics are important, but so is a career path,” Fink said. “We need those trade jobs. We need the vocational jobs, and we need for our students to understand those pathways are okay.”