Gov. Steve Beshear, along with the Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet and Kentucky Workforce Investment Board (KWIB), announced recently that Kentucky is among the first states to be accepted into the national ACT Certified Work Ready Communities Academy.

Membership in the academy will help Kentucky be a national leader in developing the local workforce skills necessary to meet current employer demands and attract businesses to the state in the future.

“This national program represents a commitment made to existing and potential employers by an entire community – its elected officials, schools and business groups,” Beshear said. “It says to them, ‘if you invest in Kentucky, you will have the skilled workers you need.’”

A leadership team from Kentucky representing workforce development, education and economic development will participate in the academy during the next 12 months. ACT, which is usually associated with educational testing, is establishing a national baseline for state workforce standards that each state can build on through its Certified Work Ready Communities program. The academy gives Kentucky leaders the opportunity to collaborate with other state leaders on workforce development strategies.

“Being invited to participate as an inaugural member of this program means that Kentucky will help shape the national conversation and movement to close the skills gap in the workforce, and be on the forefront of transforming our local economies and giving communities a competitive edge,” said Kentucky Department of Workforce Investment Commissioner Beth Brinly.

In February, Kentucky will become the third state to begin certifying counties as Work Ready Communities based on the quality of their labor force. To become certified, communities must gather local support and commitment and apply for the Work Ready Community designation. Earning Work Ready Community status assures employers that a local workforce has the talent and skills necessary to staff existing jobs and master the innovative technologies new jobs will require. Counties will have to meet criteria in six areas including high school graduation rate, National Career Readiness Certificate holders, demonstrated community commitment, educational attainment, soft-skills development and digital literacy.

“This certification will assure employers already located in Kentucky as well as those looking to call Kentucky home that a community is committed to providing businesses with the skilled workers needed to fill the jobs of today and tomorrow. We can validate the skill levels of workers in a community and use it as an economic development tool,” said Crystal Gibson, chair of the Kentucky Work Ready Communities Review Panel and vice president of Communications and Public Affairs at Citi Group.