Three counties in Arkansas are hoping a new initiative will improve the employability of their populations. Monday at the Capitol, Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced the ACT Work Ready Communities Initiative.
Jefferson, Arkansas, and Grant counties have begun the process to receive a designation as ACT Work Ready Communities. Lou Ann Nisbett, president of the Economic Development Alliance of Jefferson County, initiated the tri-county effort.
“I know people in Grant and Arkansas [counties] come here to Pine Bluff to work and vice versa, so we need each other. We need to work together. And you know economic development is more than just your city and county; it’s a region, and so we’re working as a region,” Nisbett said.
ACT, the organization also responsible for college entrance exams, has a nationwide program that promotes itself as a matchmaker between potential employers and employees. Sheridan School District Superintendent Jerrod Williams believes being an ACT testing site will benefit the students.
“It will mean a quantified endorsement that will demonstrate to employers what the students are capable of doing when they go to interview or to request information about a job,” Williams said.
Counties achieve recognition in the nationwide program based on the number of potential employees scoring high on workforce readiness exams as well as the number of local employers who recognize and use the results as part of the hiring process. The exams are computer-based tests measuring reading and mathematics skills.