Dawson County is one of five counties awarded a $35,000 state grant to improve the local workforce.
A group of leaders in the county began working about a year ago to achieve the state’s Work Ready designation, which was created to ensure that Georgia’s workers have the best skills, easy access to training and world-class job opportunities.
Linda Williams, president of the Dawson County Chamber of Commerce, applied for the grant in June to increase awareness of the county’s Work Ready initiative.
Work Ready is based on a skills assessment, certification for job seekers and a job profiling system for businesses. The goal is to generate a workforce that meet the needs of local businesses.
“As the team leader for Dawson County’s Certified Work Ready process, the group is very appreciative of these grant funds. It has been challenging to get the word out to employers and job seekers alike about the benefits of the program without a budget to work with,” Williams said.
To be designated a Certified Work Ready Community, counties must encourage current workers and the available workforce to earn Work Ready Certificates, demonstrate a commitment to improve public high school graduation rates and build community commitment for the program.
Williams said the goal to reach the designation in the next 18 months is in reach.
“Thanks to Mr. Chelf at the high school, 100 percent of the 2009 senior class took the work ready test. That has played a big part toward us getting the community certified work ready,” she said.
Funds could be used to purchase incentives for students who improve attendance and test scores.
“Fortunately, our graduation rate is well above the minimum required. We will be able to use some of these funds for software to help our students prepare for the graduation tests and for the Work Ready assessments as well,” Williams said.
Reaching the county’s existing workforce has been the greatest challenge, according to Williams. She anticipates reaching the unemployed to be just as challenging.
“We’d like to use the funding to market the program. The grant will allow us to do an advertising campaign ,” she said.
The grant will also allow the members of the local work ready team to print and distribute flyers through local agencies that serve families in need.
“We want to do anything we can to market is and get the word out,” she said.
Gov. Sonny Perdue recently announced more than 85 percent of Georgia’s communities will be certified Work Ready with the addition of 30 new counties committing to the program.