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WorkKeys® testing and the
Georgia Work Ready Certificate

WorkKeys is a proprietary vocational screening tool developed by ACT. The firm claims that:
WorkKeys Foundational and Personal Skills assessments provide reliable, relevant information about workplace skill levels.
The complete system measures nine Foundational Skills: Plus three Personal Skills: For a large number of employment occupations, ACT relates the proficiency required in three key Foundational Skills areas with its Average WorkKeys Scores Needed for Different Careers table.

In its Job Skill Comparison Charts, ACT illustrates how the distribution of scores in each of the nine Foundational Skills (for those who have taken its tests) compare to the distribution of scores required for the various occupations it has characterized. (The latter is obviously not the same thing as the distribution of scores required for the existing workforce, because not all occupations have the same number of practitioners!)

Frequently asked questions about WorkKeys are answered here.

Georgia Work Ready is a government program which uses the WorkKeys testing system. The page here explains that it

was created to ensure that Georgia's workers have the best skills, easy access to training and world-class job opportunities. The backbone of the initiative is the Work Ready Certificate, which assesses the real world skills of Georgia's workers. Georgians can use their Work Ready Certificate to prove their work readiness to potential employers.
Georgia administers a four-hour battery of tests which measures the three key Foundational Skills (highlighted above with bold text) plus a work habits assessment. It explains here that:
Work Ready Certificates are awarded based on the lowest level earned in any of the three core assessment areas, though individual scores in one or more sections may be higher.
  • Bronze indicates a minimum score of three in all three core areas
  • Silver indicates a minimum score of four in all three areas
  • Gold indicates a minimum score of five in all three areas
  • Platinum, offered only in the state of Georgia, indicates a minimum score of six in all three core areas and signals to employers that you are ready for 95 percent of jobs in the state

An accounting of certificates earned in Georgia as a whole is here, while one for Haralson County alone is here. (Upcoming testing opportunities and other information for Haralson County residents is online here.)

Access complete information on the Georgia Work Ready program from its home page here. The role of the certificate program in helping Haralson County create a better future for its people was well-explained in a September 25, 2009 Tallapoosa Journal article here. By measuring the skill levels residents have, and how many of them are in, or want to be in, the work force, it becomes easier to recruit firms with particular work force requirements and minimizes the significant barrier imposed by speculative testing by individual firms. It can also help individual test-takers diagnose weak areas they can attempt to improve through means like education and practice.

The perceived need for such an assessment scheme appears to this writer as a damning indictment of the traditional educational system (especially K-12) to provide reliable, vocationally-relevant measurements of student achievement. It also recalls his observations in the section titled "Schooling versus literacy" within an essay published here during December 2006. Indeed, the WorkKeys system appears to be something like a vocationally-oriented version of the International Adult Literacy Survey (IALS) discussed in the essay. Note that the three principal Foundational Skills of WorkKeys, viz. Reading for Information, Applied Mathematics, and Locating Information bear not a little resemblance to IALS's three literacy dimensions, viz. Prose literacy, Quantitative literacy and Document literacy.