Of Relationships and Workforce Readiness

Julie Brown

Dr. Julie Brown is spreading the word about workforce ready communities, and GO Virginia is lending a hand.

“We’re very excited about what’s happening,” Brown says. “GO Virginia is a good way for us to make connections to expand the work ready community concept in Region 3 and across the state.”

American College Testing (ACT) recently designated Danville, where Brown serves as director of Dan River Region Collaborative, as a Certified Work Ready Community (CWRC).

“As a Certified Work Ready Community, Danville has demonstrated a sustained city-wide commitment to workforce development,” Gov. Ralph Northam commented in a press release when Danville was certified. “By emphasizing the skills employers need from day one, they have built a labor force that’s ready for the 21st century.”

Identifying the Need for Ranked, Ready-to-Work Employees

“We found that employers were challenged in validating foundational skills for future employees,” Brown says. “While young people have a high school credential, they may lack basic math and reading skills and the ability to understand production charts.”

CWRC provides participants with a national industry-recognized, portable credential that profiles four levels of skill sets and designates the individual’s performance from bronze to platinum. Career Readiness Certificates are based on an individual’s test performance in the areas of applied mathematics, locating information, and reading for information.

“The National Career Readiness certificates address an employer need and at the same time provide economic developers with a tool to talk about the quality of our workforce,” Brown notes. “There’s a matching system for companies that want to profile a job with the skill level needed to be efficient in a particular job.”

Work Readiness Starts Early

“Work-based learning starts in high school,” Brown says. “We have a lot of students now earning a national career certificate that tells an employer about their foundational skills.”

Brown, who currently serves as Director of Advanced Learning at the Institute of Advanced Learning and Research in Danville, works with local school systems to establish the groundwork for workforce training.

CWRC is a public-private partnership that benefits both employers and workers. In Danville, CWRC partners with school systems, economic developers, community colleges, workforce centers and employers.

“We hold Career Expo events in middle and high schools,” Brown adds. “The next step is to partner with our employers to provide work-based learning experiences that start in high school.”

The Big Picture

Brown believes CWRC gives workforce development professionals a different story to tell about the quality of a regional workforce and sees GO Virginia as a way to share the Work Ready Community concept.

“Every locality in Region 3 has already signed on and indicated they’re working toward becoming work ready communities,” Brown concludes. “At the end of the day, we talk about collaborative partnerships, and that requires relationships. We have to do this together if we want to be attractive to businesses who want to grow. GO Virginia helps build the relationships we need.”