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Leaders explore making Port Arthur a Work Ready Community

Civic leaders in Port Arthur are planning to help local employers identify skilled job candidates in an efficient manner.

“Our main purpose always as economic developers is to get people in our community hired on locally,” said George Davis, deputy director of the Port Arthur Economic Development Corporation. “When we do our incentives here, locally in Port Arthur, we ask people to hire from Port Arthur. This is a big step, we think, to change the whole narrative about people not being able to get jobs here in Port Arthur that are qualified.”

Davis and the EDC hosted other community, industrial and school leaders at Lamar State College Port Arthur’s Carl Parker Center on Thursday for an information session on how to make the city a certified Work Ready Community through the ACT Work Ready Communities initiative.

Representatives from ACT, the company behind the standardized college entrance test of the same name, offered a presentation on an assessment that awards National Career Readiness Certificates to individuals who pass. The NCRC measures foundational skills and scores successful testers from Level 3 to Level 7.

Through the NCRC, someone who passes each of the three assessments — applied math, graphic literacy and workplace documents — at a Level 3 earns a bronze certificate, meaning someone has the skills to enter into 17% of the jobs that the ACT profiled across the country, ACT officials say. Level 4, or silver-certified individuals, can enter into 69% of those jobs; Level 5 (gold-certified) individuals can go into 93% and Level 6 or 7 (platinum-certified) are prepared for 99 percent.

“We get a lot of disconnect where employers say, ‘We need skills A, B and C,’ and our high schools are saying, ‘We’re training them on X, Y and Z,” said Tony Garife, a Western U.S. regional manager for the ACT Work Ready Communities.

Garife added that candidates for ACT Work Ready Communities are required to gather as many community leaders as possible for a local team to take part in the initiative. Training “boot camp” for interested teams will be held in April in New Orleans.

“What we require to be part of the initiative is having people from all over the community, so not just employers,” he said. “We want K-12 representatives. We want our higher education at the table. We want our workforce at the table. We want our economic developers at the table. We want our mayors and county commissioners and anybody interested in making sure our workforce is where it needs to be for our employers.”

Port Arthur Mayor Thurman Bartie has pushed for employers to hire within the city and indicated interest in the local Work Ready Communities push.

“I am going to be working toward insuring that all of these groups will work as a collaboration so we can get a great number of Port Arthurans trained and attractive to be employees for our industrial neighbors and employers who need them,” he said.