NC Chamber Foundation names Hertford County as NC Works Certified Work Ready Community

Published 9:56 am Thursday, October 6, 2016

AHOSKIE – The North Carolina Chamber Foundation, the policy center for the state’s largest, broad-based business advocacy organization, announces that it has approved Hertford County as an NC Works Certified Work Ready Community.

The formal presentation came Sept. 29 during a ceremony held at Roanoke-Chowan Community College.

To be certified as an NC Works Certified Work Ready Community, a county must meet each of the following criteria:

A letter of commitment to workforce excellence from county leaders;

Progress in the high school graduation rate toward the goal of 94 percent;

Achieve the number of National Career Readiness; Certificates indicated in the Common Criteria; and

Gain commitment from employers to recognize the NCRC.

The National Career Readiness Certificate demonstrates the foundational skills of job seekers in a community and serves as the basis for the Common Criteria.

This initiative provides a framework to empower counties with the data, processes and tools that drive economic growth. The framework aligns education, workforce development and industry while matching individuals’ skills to job requirements.

Meaghan Lewis, Government Affairs Manager for the NC Chamber of Commerce, was at RCCC on Sept. 29 to present Hertford County with its official designation as a Certified Work Ready Community.

“All the work for this certification is done at the local level,” Lewis remarked. “Today’s presentation means Hertford County is prepared to meet the needs of its workforce.

“At our Chamber, I hear all too often that there is a skills gap in our state due to rapidly involving economy. Every employer asks the same question: how do find, secure and retain and train our new generation of talent,” she added.

Lewis said in 2005, the North Carolina Community College System, in partnership with the state’s Department of Commerce, began a pilot program to assist individuals in obtaining a national career readiness certificate.

“That laid the groundwork for the NC East Alliance to pilot a process that certified counties as Work Ready Communities beginning in 2011,” Lewis noted. “To date, we have 13 counties designated as Work Ready Communities and I’m proud to be here today to formally announce Hertford County as number fourteen.”

In short, being a Work Ready Community means a county’s workforce stands ready to fill jobs that are in demand.

“It also helps counties drive economic growth,” Lewis stressed. “It signals to the businesses already here and possibly to come that workers have the foundational skills to make those businesses successful.”

In Hertford County, 719 individuals have gained certification through the program. Lewis said that number far exceeded a goal of 300 individuals.

“And, 29 employers have signed on to support this initiative and that number is growing,” Lewis noted.

Hertford County Economic Development Director Bill Early said he could use this newly gained certification as a recruiting tool.

“This is a big, big deal, one that makes my job much easier,” Early said. “Business and industry know that Hertford County has a certified work force they can tap into.”

Dr. William Wright, Superintendent of Hertford County Public Schools, said this certification means that the county is “all in” when it comes to continuing education well beyond high school and college.

“I believe it’s our responsibility to encourage folks to learn, whether they’re in the second grade, a student here at the community college, or an adult in the workforce or looking for employment,” Wright maintained. “We need to keep the fire lit when it comes to high expectations, education, integrity, dignity, and respect for yourself and others. If we do that, the fire will never be extinguished.”

Myra Poole, Senior Dean of Instruction and Student Success at RCCC, said the school was in the business of making sure there is a trained workforce for local employers.

“It’s very important to us to continue to meet the needs of businesses and industry here in Hertford County and all the counties we serve,” Poole said. “It’s important that we connect high school, to the community college, to our four-year institutions as we create those who will be the leading forces in our community as well as future business owners.”

Amy Braswell, Executive Vice President of the Ahoskie Chamber of Commerce, said this day was well over a year in the making, starting with the formation of the Hertford County Business and Industry Council.

“We put some meaningful work together to create to design an economic development program in a way that we can measure success,” Braswell recalled. “The first thing we did was work towards the goal of obtaining certification as a Work Ready Community. We’re really excited to reach this day and we appreciate the collaboration from across the board….from the schools, to the chambers, to Bill Early.

“We knew that Hertford County needed a workforce in place that business and industry can count on,” Braswell continued. “It also impacts our quality of life. We can teach our young people the skills they need to secure a job, but when they overachieve we so often lose them as they leave our county in search of higher paying jobs. We want to give them a chance to come home and work, and you do that by making your workforce attractive, a skilled workforce, so that new business and industry wants to locate here.”

Braswell said when a person is certified as work ready, they present that certification upon applying for a job. In turn, the employer knows up front that this individual has the basic skills to work.

“Employers need to know this, not just be told that this person is capable for the job,” she pointed out.

Braswell also praised the work of the Hertford County Business and Industry Council. That group consists of Directors of the Ahoskie and Murfreesboro Chambers of Commerce, the Hertford County Economic Development office, Hertford County Public School System, NCWorks Hertford County Career Center, Region Q Workforce Development Board, and Roanoke-Chowan Community College.

Braswell said Hertford County surpassed the stated goals for number of Career Readiness Certificates in the county and the four-year cohort high school graduation rate increased by 10 percent to 86 percent in 2015. 

For their efforts, the Hertford County Business and Industry Council was recently honored to receive the annual Sam Carson Award for Excellence in the Promotion of Workforce Development. That award was created by the Region Q Workforce Development Board in December 2007 to recognize the outstanding efforts of the NCWorks Career Center, WIOA program operators, or Career Center partners in the counties of Beaufort, Bertie, Hertford, Martin, and Pitt which has demonstrated outstanding efforts in the marketing and promotion of the Workforce Development system. 

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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