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POSTED: May 29, 2008 5:00 a.m.
Liberty County has recently made a state-recognized step to cut unemployment by applying for a Georgia Work Ready Community certification.
Under the Georgia Work Ready Initiative started last year, Gov. Sonny Perdue invited counties to help their residents find and keep jobs in collaboration with the state's technical colleges.
According to Tom Hines, executive director of training and operations at Savannah Technical College, GWRP takes the job matching assistance a step further than the Department of Labor, addressing one of the root causes for unemployment.
He said the goal is "establish a functional workforce" and "have the state and its workforce absolutely ready through skills development for any business that might want to move into the state of Georgia."
Through assessments, computer-based training and classroom instruction, GWRP gives workers a "single-source," to become more marketable and to better meet employers' needs.
The Liberty County Chamber of Commerce is the lead agency in seeking the certification and chamber Executive Director Kenny Smiley is excited.
"It would develop our work force for Liberty County, employers and future employees of local businesses and industries," he said.
The chamber is getting ready to conduct the required initial testing, working with the board of education and the Liberty campus of Savannah Technical College to serve as testing centers.
The program's signature WorkKeys assessment follows the same testing format as the nationally recognized ACT standardized test, measuring basic math, reading and reasoning skills.
Participants who take the free assessment are matched with an occupational profile.
The results also help a community identify and fill gaps in its workforce's skill levels.
Target populations for the program differ in various locations across the state.
So a county applying for certification must conduct initial testing, covering a variety of labor markets, from federal employees to GED holders.
"This will establish a profile on Liberty County on where the workforce might be coming from," Hines said.
He explained how GWRP can benefit all job seekers, regardless of education level.
"It's not something that's only there for a high school graduate or an unemployed person," Hines said. "You can take that certification along with your degree and you will probably receive a little bit more attention from that HR manager than a person without that type of credential."  
Georgia Work Ready Program awards certificates in four skill level categories.
Participants are encouraged to improve their profile through further skill training. Then they retest for a higher-level certificate to be more marketable or just for self-betterment.
Hines said he thought seeking the Georgia Work Ready community certification was a "major step," and "the vehicle to help Liberty County validate that it has the workforce ready to fill the hiring needs of business and industry."
 

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