First Tennessee Development District ‘on journey’ as ACT Work Ready Communities

Published 7:16 pm Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Consider it another tool in the toolbox for the eight counties of Northeast Tennessee.
Met by a round of applause Thursday, the First Tennessee Development District (FTDD) officially announced that each county with the group had been recognized as a participating county for the ACT Work Ready Communities program. The counties that make up the FTDD include Carter, Greene, Hancock, Hawkins, Johnson, Sullivan, Unicoi and Washington.
“I really want to thank everyone that has been involved with this effort,” said Washington County Mayor Dan Eldridge, before making the announcement that each county has been recognized as participating with the program. “Work Ready Communities seemed like a viable way to build up the workforce across county lines, across business lines and across educational lines.”
First started in September at the request of Sullivan County Mayor Richard Venable, the idea of becoming a Work Ready Community allows communities to be nationally recognized for incoming businesses and industries while bulking up a workforce with a National Career Readiness Certificate (NCRC) while can be obtained at four different levels – bronze, silver, gold and platinum.
“ACT Work Ready Community is an important workforce and economic development tool,” said Carter County Mayor Leon Humphrey adding that NCRC allows individuals to become better acclimated to enter the workforce.
Out of the 3,077 counties in the United States, only 180 are considered a Work Ready Community, Eldridge said. The ability to become a recognized community by ACT while allowing the region to become better at strategically planning how to build up economic development and the workforce, according to the mayor.
The mayor added that Eastman Chemical requires entry level positions to have NCRC bronze certification, which has netted successful results, and that Site Selection Magazine uses Work Ready Communities as criteria when ranking the most competitive states.
Site selectors will have the opportunity to track the progress of each county by visiting and seeing what businesses support the initiative and see how the workforce ranks up compared to other areas.
“This is a wonderful, regional collaboration for everyone looking out how to move things forward,” Humphrey said. “All of these mayors have been working on this for quite some time and put forth the initiative. New partnerships and relationships have been formed as a result of the work. As the infrastructure is built out, we can also do a deep dive into the data to see if there are any skills that we need to work on to move our performance from one level to another. (This will) allow us to stay committed to do what it takes to track the right businesses to our region. And we firmly believe this will help us keep our current business and industry even stronger.”
According to the ACT Work Ready Community Map, Carter County has achieved 23 percent of the goal to become certified. Currently, 107 residents are NCRC certified and 15 local businesses support the program, including Carter County Government, TCAT – Elizabethton, Northeast Tennessee Community College, Frontier Health and Northeast Credit Community Union.
The goal, according to Eldridge, is for the blue on the ACT map to change to gold, indicating the region has become certified. Only a handful of counties in the western portion of the state are officially certified.
“We want to accomplish this within the next two years,” he added.

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