(Left to right): Rita Surratt, President and CEO of Dickenson County Chamber and Tourism Director; Cody Mumpower, representative of 9th District Congressman Morgan Griffith’s Office; Meagan Healy, Chief Workforce Development Advisor for Governor Ralph Northam; Larry Yates, Dickenson County Industrial Development Authority; Denechia Edwards, Director of Special Education, Career and Technical Education at Dickenson County Public Schools, Mitzi Sykes, Dickenson County Economic Development Director; and David Yates, Dickenson County Board of Supervisors.
Dickenson County officials announced this week, in a ceremony at the Dickenson Center for Education and Research, that the County is an ACT Certified Work Ready Community (CWRC). Megan Healy, Chief Workforce Development Advisor for Governor Ralph Northam, joined local business, education and community leaders at the ceremony to congratulate Dickenson County for being the first county in Southwest Virginia to achieve this designation. The CWRC designation will help Dickenson County attract new businesses and jobs in addition to strengthening the region’s incumbent workforce.
Rita Surratt, President and CEO of the Dickenson County Chamber and Tourism Director, provided welcoming remarks for the ceremony, sharing that Dickenson County was not only the first county in Southwest Virginia to achieve the prestigious CWRC designation, but the 11th county in the entire state.
Healy praised Dickenson County’s effort during the ceremony, “Virginia is number one in workforce and education. Employers are attracted to credentials that show competencies and skills levels. When employers see these skills that’s what they want.” Cody Mumpower, representative of 9th District Congressman Morgan Griffith’s Office, brought congratulations on behalf of Congressman Griffith.
Dickenson County announced its intent to pursue the ACT CWRC designation at the Dickenson County Chamber of Commerce gala in December of 2018. The announcement started a two-year clock for Dickenson County to reach the goals required by ACT to become a CWRC.
To begin the Work Ready Communities process, county leaders attended the ACT Work Ready Communities Academy, an executive leadership and training program designed and led by ACT to initiate, deploy, and drive carefully tailored efforts to improve the county’s work readiness. Leaders then met with local employers, policymakers, educators and economic developers to reach established goals and build a sustainable WRC model to fit community needs.
The goals, which are set by ACT based on demographic information from Dickenson County, require that a certain number of the existing, transitioning, and emerging workforce earn an ACT National Career Readiness Certificate® (NCRC).
The ACT NCRC, which is designed to measure and close skills gaps among workers and job seekers, is key to the success of CWRCs. The ACT NCRC is a portable, evidence-based, stackable credential that certifies workers’ essential skills needed for workplace success—applied math, workplace documents and graphic literacy. It is also a tool that can assist employers with hiring and retention – allowing them to base their decisions on employees’ skill levels, thus reducing expensive turnover for their companies. The ACT NCRC demonstrates that job seekers have the skills necessary to go to work.
Larry Yates with the Dickenson County IDA expressed his faith in Dickenson County and Southwest Virginia, “The ACT Work Ready Community certification will give us an amazing leg-up to attract sustainable business to Dickenson County.”
As a part of becoming a CWRC, Dickenson County was required to gain the support of local employers that will either recognize the certification or incorporate it into the hiring process. Over 25 Dickenson County employers signed agreements to support the initiative.
“The work on this initiative has just begun,” challenged David Yates with the Dickenson County Board of Supervisors. “Now we must continue to meet the goals for the Work Ready Communities, grow this initiative, and market it both to existing businesses and potential new businesses.” Yates went on to thank the many partners that had worked to help Dickenson County achieve certification.
Dickenson County is a partner in a 21-locality collaboration to pursue the ACT CWRC designation across the entire Southwest Virginia region. The effort was spearheaded by The Southwest Virginia Workforce Development Board, the Southwest Virginia Advanced Manufacturing Center of Excellence, and the New River/Mount Rogers Workforce Development Board.