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State test to assess, develop Augusta work force

Georgia Workforce Ready screen

(May 21, 2010 / WRDW-TV)

News 12 First at Five, May 21, 2010

AUGUSTA, Ga. --- If Augusta is going to advance, medicine could well be the key.

The Medical College of Georgia is working with other local employers, putting together a plan to make Augusta a hub of the medical industry. It would mean moving beyond hospital care into research and biosciences.

The goal is to combine the medical, science and communications areas of Fort Gordon, Savannah River Site and MCG, along with Augusta Bio-Sciences Region, to create a new life science center.

Friday, Mayor Copenhaver and community leaders met to listen to health care entrepreneur Dr. Thomas Cooper give advice on moving forward.

It will mean more jobs for Augusta, and the first step is making sure potential employees have the skills necessary to fill those positions. That's becoming a reality, thanks to the Georgia Work Ready Initiative.

It's a state program designed to assess the skills of candidates as they enter the workforce. It's all done through a standardized test, and for people applying for jobs, that test could mean being head and shoulders above the competition.

Anthony Smith has been on the job search for more than a year.

"It's very hard, it's very stressful," he says. "It makes you want to stop and quit."

But he's just taken a test that could change all that.

"It will point out the areas you're weak in and you go back in those areas and upgrade it," he says.

Anthony is talking about the Georgia Work Ready Initiative.

The goal is to test future employees in areas of reading, math and information gathering to assess what they can and can't do in the workforce.

"More and more employers are starting to take advantage of it," says Dr. Lisa Palmer, interim vice-president of economic development at Augusta Tech.

"Especially with more and more applicants and the economy the way it is, it's a good screening tool."

Dr. Palmer is in charge of giving the tests at Augusta Tech.

"Someone can present well, but on the job, they're not a good match or they're not trainable for that position," she says, adding these are things that won't necessarily come across in a job interview.

The Georgia Work Ready Initiative is a state program that's been around since 2006. But organizers say with big businesses like Solo and Prayon coming on board, the program is just starting to pick up steam.

"The business community really leads this," Dr. Palmer says, adding that it would make a job seeker more marketable.

"When you're competing against hundreds of people, you want to do all you can to stand out. This is one way to do that."

Once an applicant takes the test, he or she will receive certification based on skill level. Certificates are ranked on four levels, from bronze to platinum.

For those who score low on the test, Augusta Tech offers free computer software to help with training. Applicants can also take courses to develop skills in a certain area.

And as businesses eye Augusta to expand, a trained workforce is a big draw.

"It will actually help us compete for new companies to come to the area," Dr. Palmer says.

Anthony just scored bronze on the exam, but he's going for the gold.

"That's my plan," he smiles. "That's my goal, to get platinum. So yeah, I'm gonna get it!"

Friday, Governor Sonny Perdue signed a bill to keep the initiative going after he leaves office in January.

The test is free and administered at Augusta Tech. The scores are good for up to five years and can be used for any job application. Dr. Palmer says more businesses are making them a requirement, while others are giving certified applicants hiring priority.

To find out more about the initiative, please click the link below.


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