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The National Work Readiness Credential Investment Partnership
Early in 2002, national advisors to the National Institute for Literacy’s “Equipped for the Future” initiative encouraged the Institute to build consensus around defining work readiness by launching a standards-based approach to defining, measuring, and certifying work readiness. It was believed that this could be done by building on the foundation already established by Equipped for the Future. The product of this work would be a research-based and nationally validated tool for certifying entry-level work readiness – called the National Work Readiness Credential.

By the end of 2002, four states—Florida, New Jersey, New York and Washington—had decided to join the Institute in investing to build this new tool. Subsequently, Rhode Island, the District of Columbia and Junior Achievement Worldwide (JA Worldwide) joined as investors.

In early 2005, the project moved from the Institute, a government agency, to the business-focused Center for Workforce Preparation at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. National advisors to the investor partnership included: the Institute for Educational Leadership; the National Association of Manufacturers; the National Retail Federation Foundation; the National Governors Association; and the National Association of Workforce Boards.

SRI International, an independent, not-for-profit, science- and knowledge-based research and consulting organization, led a team of research and development organizations in designing the Work Readiness Credential with direct input and oversight from the investing partners. Other team members included technical experts from BMC Associates, the Center for Applied Linguistics, HumRRO, University of Tennessee’s Center for Literacy Studies, and WestED.

To find out what mattered on the front line, a year-long research process was conducted involving businesses from Florida, New Jersey, New York, and Washington. Representatives of businesses, chambers of commerce, and industry associations from across the country were subsequently asked to respond to the research results. The consensus was that entry-level workers needed a strong foundation of critical employability skills: the ability to cooperate with others, the ability to communicate orally in English as well as to read and write; the ability to solve problems, resolve conflicts and take responsibility; and the ability to learn and adapt to change.

During the first phase of the process, data was collected and then analyzed to determine the knowledge, skills, and abilities to be included in the draft Work Readiness Profile. The investing states then participated in an importance ratings process to refine the skills and tasks included in the draft profile for the Credential. Utilizing local workforce boards, chambers of commerce and business trade associations, investors were able to identify supervisors of entry-level workers from local businesses across industry sectors who agreed to participate in an online survey to rate the importance of the tasks required of entry-level workers in their place of business and the skills needed to perform that work.

Following an analysis of the results of the online survey, structured feedback sessions were organized to obtain face-to-face reviews of tasks and skills rated during the online survey. The key purpose of these sessions was to supplement the quantitative ratings of the tasks and skills gathered during the surveys and provide qualitative data that could be used to enhance the understanding of the interpretations and evaluations of selected tasks and skills across a variety of industry sectors and stakeholder groups.

Once the profile for the Credential was finalized, a review of existing assessment instruments for potential use with the Credential was conducted. Further development of assessment instruments included the use of subject matter experts drawn from across industries to devise the necessary situational judgment test questions and, through a structured interview process, examine the relevance of test questions in addressing the skills identified in the Credential profile. Field testing and validation of the assessment tools was conducted at various sites across the partner states this past fall and winter. The design and development of the delivery system was also completed and field tested during this time.

Key throughout the assessment development process was that the resulting product had to be valid, reliable and legally defensible. The process was guided throughout to ensure that any tool developed would meet the rigorous standards required in the world of employability assessments.

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National Work Readiness Council
Phone 800.761.0907| Fax: 850.385.8546