May 14, 2015 10:47:43 AM
Golden Triangle high school students who took the WorkKeys test this spring out-performed the regional average.
A total of 124 area juniors and seniors took the test, which measures aptitude to perform skilled manufacturing tasks, and 68 percent received a "Silver" score or higher.
The area average for adults has been 66 percent reaching a "Silver" score, according to East Mississippi Community College.
WorkKeys is designed by the makers of the ACT test, but categorizes scores by metals, with a "platinum" being the highest score. A silver rating on the WorkKeys Test is listed as a requirement for the recently posted production line positions with the new Yokohama plant in West Point. It will likely become standard for all local manufacturing jobs.
This year, the Golden Triangle Development LINK encouraged all local public schools to adopt the WorkKeys test for high school juniors. The LINK offered to pay half of the $50 testing fee for each student. The Columbus Municipal School District, the Lowndes County School District and West Point School District all implemented testing this year, which was optional for juniors and seniors. Starkville School District will be implementing the WorkKeys test next year.
"These scores reveal a great deal of opportunity both for our students and for future industrial recruitment," said Macaulay Whitaker, vice president of internal and external affairs for the LINK. "We hope that schools will continue to offer this test to their students annually, treating it like any other mainstream career and college readiness exam."
West Point High School tested the most students in the Golden Triangle, with 72 students taking WorkKeys and 71 percent scoring Silver or higher. LCSD high schools and Columbus High School each had a handful of students take the test this year.
"Our business and industry look to hire people with a silver or higher CRC for entry-level production jobs," said Raj Shaunak, vice president of workforce and community services at EMCC. "These are skills that we need to provide to students before they graduate high school to enhance their potential for gainful employment."
LINK CEO Joe Max Higgins has recently told The Dispatch that local WorkKeys test results have become the most sought after information for industries looking to come to the Golden Triangle. He believes the more students take the test, the better.
"A renowned site selection consultant informed us recently that no longer will economic development searches depend on drive-time radius to estimate workforce," Higgins said. "They are now asking for a communities' WorkKeys inventory. Providing this opportunity to students is moving us in the right direction for supplying our future workforce."
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