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ACT Celebrates Joplin’s Road to Economic Recovery Amid 10 Year Anniversary of Devastating Tornado

How Hope, Resilience, and a Dedication to Workforce Readiness Sparked ACT’s First Work Ready Community

—On May 22, 2011, Joplin, Mo. was hit by a tornado that destroyed nearly one-third of the city. Saturday marks the 10-year anniversary of that devastating event.

The road to economic recovery was long and (literally) littered with debris. Relief and revival came from hard work and many helping hands, including those of ACT team members.

Two years later, Jasper County (Joplin) became the nation’s first ACT Work Ready Community (WRC).

“The roots of a cohesive, national workforce development program were growing across the nation, and in Joplin, when the tornado hit,” said ACT’s Jasen Jones, then the executive director of the Workforce Innovation Board of Southwest Missouri. “But the tornado fast-tracked this national need, which ACT cultivated and grew into Work Ready Communities.”

Work Ready Communities is a community-based framework that links workforce development to education; aligns with the economic development needs of communities, regions, and states; and matches individuals to jobs based on skill levels.

The leaders in the recovery efforts for Joplin, along with the Citizens Advisory Recovery Team, prioritized the attainment of a work-ready designation as a means for recovery. Prior to the tornado, ACT® WorkKeys® and the ACT® WorkKeys® National Career Readiness Certificate® (NCRC) were already gaining momentum in Joplin, and surrounding states had begun to develop pilot programs that influenced the national Work Ready Communities initiative.

“We saw there was a real need to make some statement nationally that Joplin is open for business and really working hard on recovery,” said Rob O’Brian, former president of the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce. “So, we circled back to becoming a Work Ready Community.”

Amid its work with Joplin and area leaders to assist in the disaster recovery efforts, ACT announced the creation of the national Work Ready Communities initiative at a WorkKeys conference in January 2012.

Today, Missouri has an 89 percent participation rate in Work Ready Communities, with 102 of 114 counties in the state participating in the program. More than 5,300 employers in the state support WRCs and nearly 142,000 NCRCs have been earned, demonstrating a strong talent pipeline for the state’s future growth.

To learn more about how ACT Work Ready Communities can support your area in attracting, retaining and developing a skilled workforce, go to

For an in-depth discussion of Joplin’s disaster recovery efforts, check out this episode of the ACT Ready for Work Podcast.


About 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.

Today, more than five million NCRCs help students, job seekers, employers, educators, and communities find the right balance of workforce supply and demand.

About ACT

ACT is a mission-driven, nonprofit organization dedicated to helping people achieve education and workplace success. Grounded in more than 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.