Phelps County is on its way to earning a status that assures local workforces have the talent necessary to staff existing jobs and master innovative technologies jobs that the future will require.

Phelps County is on its way to earning a status that assures local workforces have the talent necessary to staff existing jobs and master innovative technologies jobs that the future will require.

The Missouri Department of Economic Development (DED) recently named Phelps County a Certified Work Ready Community in Progress, which means the county is in the process of trying to meet goals to become a Certified Work Ready Community.

The Certified Work Ready Community program is a voluntary initiative designed to strengthen local economies and give counties a competitive advantage in attracting businesses and new jobs.

It is led by community leaders and links workforce development to education, aligns economic development needs of communities, matches appropriate applicants to jobs based on skill levels and strengthens and grows businesses.

"Businesses demand a talented and well-trained workforce," said Mike Downing, acting director of the DED. "Applying for this designation is evidence of the counties' commitment to reaching education, workforce and economic development goals that make their communities a desirable place for companies looking to expand or relocate."

Cyndra Lorey, executive director of the Rolla Regional Economic Commission (RREC), said the Rolla Area Chamber of Commerce and workforce development divisions in the area are the driving force to earn this certification, but noted that the designation would benefit economic development.

"It's another great tool in our toolbox. It helps set us apart from other communities and other states," Lorey said.

She noted that company officials looking to move to this area have their "ears perked up" when they hear about the Certified Work Ready Program. "It's another marketing tool to use for our community," Lorey said.

To earn certification, counties will have to meet established criteria in three specific areas:

•Demonstrated leadership by key stakeholders,
• National Career Readiness Certificate attainment in the emerging, transitional and current workforce, and • Employer/business support.
Developed by ACT, which is known for its college admission tests and workforce training programs, the designation is conferred by the Missouri Workforce Investment Board and is based on criteria established by the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center and ACT.
Rolla Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Stevie Kearse said local businesses and the workforce can help achieve the Certified Work Ready Community designation by signing on to support the initiative. The county has two years to achieve all of its goals.
Kearse explained that employees can earn a National Career Readiness Certificate by taking a job assessment test offered by ACT.
"It defines your skill level in the workforce," Kearse said, "and what you're ready to do with those skills."
Based on the people in the area who take this test, it may show that the county has a lot of people who are considered as part of the work-ready population, meaning they are ready to be hired and will need less training.
Kearse said individuals who are registered through the Missouri Career Center can take the test for free if they are 18 and older.
Businesses can help by recognizing the National Career Readiness Certificate.
"It doesn't mean you need the certificate to be hired, but if I'm Company X and if they (prospective employees) show me they have that certificate, I know this person has taken the test and got whatever level on it."
Kearse said Phelps County currently has 20 businesses signed up that recognize the certificate out of 59 that are needed.
Businesses can join the list by going online to or by can go to the Rolla Area Chamber of Commerce to ask for a hard copy.
According to the website,, there are 34 out of the 114 Missouri counties participating in the program, but Jasper County is the only one to attain all of its goals.
Besides Missouri, other states participating in the program include Michigan, North Carolina, Oregon, South Carolina, Virginia, Utah and Wyoming.