Gov. Nathan Deal officially recognized Liberty County as a Work Ready community.
On Tuesday, local officials, community residents and Liberty County Chamber of Commerce members gathered for the announcement, which means the county earned a designation from the Governor’s Office of Workforce Development certifying that the local workforce possesses the skills necessary to meet potential employers’ needs.
Liberty County earned 2,901 Work Ready Certificates, which was 115 percent more than the goal. It also increased the public high school graduation rate from 69.4 to 77.8, according to a chamber news release.
“I can’t say enough for what it means to this community and the state of Georgia and for Liberty County,” said Georgia Power area manager Robert Stokes, who also serves as the chamber committee chairman. “As we move forward in sustaining Work Ready, we still need businesses help. Please, please, please help us sustain Work Ready. Help us move forward.”
The program was launched in 2006 by then-Gov. Sonny Perdue, along with the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, to improve job training and marketability, according to the program’s website.
“Workforce development is at the core of everything we do at Savannah Tech,” Savannah Technical College President Kathy Love said. “We’re proud that Liberty County has earned this important designation and will be continuing to work with our partners to strengthen the labor pool throughout our area.”
Melvin Everson, director of the Governor’s Office of Workforce also presented a $10,000 check from the office to Work Ready committee members. The money can be used for continued programming for certification.
“It is certainly a great honor and privilege to be here in Liberty County ... boy, how you’ve grown,” Everson said. “I bring you greetings on behalf of my boss, the man I work for, Gov. Nathan Deal, who fully supports the Georgia Work Ready initiative and your accomplishment here today in Liberty County as becoming a Work Ready certified community … you know what it means now to be Work Ready certified. What does that mean? It means that you have hung out the shingles to tell the business community and industry leaders across this part of Georgia that you are indeed ready to bring on and take on the challenges that the industries and businesses offer when they bring new jobs into the area.”
Several officials, including Hinesville Mayor Jim Thomas and County Commission Chairman John McIver, thanked audience members for their dedication to the program. Liberty County has been working toward certification for three years. To become certified, employees were required to take a four-hour test with three sections. There also is a talent section that is not scored and is based on independent work patterns and communication skills. Chamber Executive Director Leah Poole said the committee soon will get a list of goals that the county will be required to meet each year in order to retain the Work Ready status.
Competition in the local, state and global markets are another reason local officials pushed to get the community certified Work Ready.
“When you go to a firm and tell them I have a certified Work Ready workforce, it helps you in your salesmanship in getting those jobs here,” Thomas said. “I can’t express to you how important it is to have a work certified workforce. We are competing on a global basis. When we have qualified people who can do the work that needs to be done, it makes us more competitive. It makes and develops our community.”