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Workplace Success Becomes Part of the ACT Mission

In honor of the 60th anniversary of ACT’s founding in 1959, ACT’s leaders are sharing their thoughts on our history – and how our past and present help to inform ACT’s future.

One of the nation’s deadliest tornadoes destroyed nearly one-third of Joplin, Missouri in May of 2011.

Workforce and economic development leaders in Joplin identified the need to put individuals back to work that lost jobs due to the disaster, supply hundreds of workers needed for humanitarian and cleanup efforts, and prevent the mass out-migration of residents known as the Katrina Effect, named for similar consequences of Hurricane Katrina.

Disaster Recovery workers finalize debris removal at one of several hundred work sites across Joplin

Joplin leaders pursued a strategy to leverage the resiliency of the region and the quality of the workforce to put Joplin back on the map for growth. Joplin’s Citizens Advisory Recovery Team named the ACT Work Ready Communities pursuit as one of nine key strategies.

Work Ready Communities are the ideal markets for investment from job creators and corporate site selection consultants. Local teams report strong success with integrating workforce ecosystem partners and resources with improved outcomes for seekers, students, employers, educators, and governmental leaders alike.

My Journey


Before joining ACT in 2017, I had the privilege of leading Jasper County (Joplin, Missouri) as the nation’s first Work Ready Community certified by ACT in 2013. With steady growth in ACT® WorkKeys® usage since the Southwest Missouri Workforce Development Board (WDB) implemented WorkKeys in 2006, the Work Ready Communities opportunity came at the right time.

Gov Nixon presents official State of Missouri proclamation of Jasper County as the nation’s first Work Ready Community certified by ACT

The WDB provided ACT® WorkKeys® National Career Readiness Certificates® (NCRCs®), temporary disaster recovery employment, and other solutions that raised workforce outcomes for the longer-term unemployed population. The Joplin Regional Partnership and Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce leveraged the nation’s first Work Ready Community designation in five successful economic development startup and expansion projects within the first three years of WRC.



Economic developers provide an array of services to manage the assets of a region such as human capital, infrastructure, and growth solutions. Underneath all of the strategies is a core mission to instill hope for the communities served.

ACT Workforce Solutions


ACT revolutionized the workforce readiness space in 1992 with the creation of WorkKeys.

Powered by feedback from workforce developers, employers, and educators, ACT aimed to provide solutions to identify foundational workplace skills used in a variety of jobs that could be taught in a short period and verified through job analysis.

Seventeen years later, more than 4.7 million NCRCs help students, job seekers, employers, educators, and communities find the right balance of workforce supply and demand.




Why WorkKeys?


In the 21st century labor market of fewer jobs and higher skill expectations, the match of skill levels to job tasks is as important as ever. Employers reduce turnover, cost, and waste while improving productivity and compliance. NCRC holders typically gain re-employment sooner, stay on the job longer, and earn more than those without the NCRC. Educators improve individual job outcomes along with program and completion rates. Communities improve the perceptions of their labor markets and increase goodwill among partners and investors. ACT remains the global leader in workforce readiness with the only job analysis system of its kind supported by assessments and curriculum to get those results.

Local leaders that seek to apply the WorkKeys success model to their counties, parishes, or regions, have a framework for excellence with ACT Work Ready Communities. What began nationally in 2012 now has 464 locations in 29 states, and more than 25,000 employers recommending or recognizing the NCRC.





Hope shines through in career opportunities, economic mobility, and lifelong learning that improves living standards for all. I am thankful for ACT’s role in life-changing workforce solutions that open doors for students, seekers, employers, and educators through WorkKeys and Work Ready Communities.

You can learn more about our workforce offerings at the 2019 ACT Workforce Summit, October 28-30, and check out the workforce podcast I host, Ready for Work, your go-to source for assessing, developing, and growing your workforce.

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About ACT

ACT is a mission-driven, nonprofit organization dedicated to helping people achieve education and workplace success. Grounded in 60 years of research, ACT is a trusted leader in college and career readiness solutions. Each year, ACT serves millions of students, job seekers, schools, government agencies and employers in the US and around the world with learning resources, assessments, research and credentials designed to help them succeed from elementary school through career.

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