During a ceremony Wednesday at Ogeechee Technical College, Bulloch County was officially recognized as Certified Georgia Work Ready and the area manager for Georgia Power believes the designation will help local workers, employers and the economy as a whole.
“The potential to be a real boost to our economy is there,” said Terry Reeves, who works out of the Statesboro Georgia Power office on Stockyard Road. “If you are looking for a job and are Certified Work Ready, that tells employers you're willing to go farther to get training. A Work Ready community tells businesses that you have a work force in your backyard with the skills that company needs to be successful.”
Gov. Sonny Perdue first announced the Georgia Work Ready initiative in 2006 to help Georgia workers get trained in skills that would open up more job opportunities.
Since then, thousands of workers have been assessed in three core skills - applied mathematics, reading for information and locating information - and in work habits. Each worker receives a score and based on the score receives a Work Ready Certificate.
Ogeechee Technical College and several employers in Bulloch County, however, wanted more. They wanted Bulloch to be a Certified Work Ready Community.
“I met with (OTC President) Dawn Cartee and she was supportive," said Dr. Benjy Thompson, OTC's director of Economic Development and the point person for the local effort. “We received early support from James Suchovsky at Briggs and Stratton, local banks, the Chamber and lots of other small businesses.”
So, Thompson and OTC decided to organize the effort and make the Work Ready application to the state. The application had to satisfy two specific requirements:
First, demonstrate a commitment to improving public high school graduation rates through a measurable increase.
“Thanks to the great work of our Board of Education, the county's graduation rate has been rising over the last several years,” Thompson said. “During the process, the county's graduation rate rose from 73.9 percent in 2007 to 81.8 percent in 2009.”
And second, show a specified percentage of the available and current work force has earned Work Ready Certificates.
“During the last six months of 2009, we started our Work Ready push to get the required number of certificates,” Thompson said. “With a lot of help from private employers and Ogeechee Tech, we met our required numbers in December with 1,132 Bulloch residents receiving Georgia Work Ready certificates.”
Thompson said he was notified last week Bulloch is Certified Work Ready and it is now one of 35 counties with the designation. Reeves said it's important now for employers to embrace the Work Ready program.
“I would think if a business had 10 to 15 applicants for a job, and one had his or her Work Ready certificate, that would help them in the process,” Reeves said. “Employers should ask applicants, 'Do you have a Work Ready certificate?' and if they don't to come back and apply when they do.”
Peggy Chapman, executive director of the Statesboro-Bulloch County Chamber of Commerce, said the designation could make companies look at Bulloch a little more closely when thinking about opening a plant or considering expansion.
“It's important the process is now complete and companies know we are Work Ready,” Chapman said. “I think this will open some doors to us that may have been closed before.”
Ogeechee Tech offers Work Ready certificate assessments every Wednesday beginning at 4 p.m. OTC also offers training to improve your certificate score. Call Ken Bryant at (912) 871-1693 or email him at email@example.com.