A Publication of WTVP

In a tough time for new graduates, Illinois Central College offers students a chance to get ahead of the pack with a new readiness certification program.

Employers look for ways to make good hires and avoid mistakes. Usually this includes interviews, reviews of transcripts, or skills testing. The National Career Readiness Certificate (NCRC) from ACT Inc. gives employers another tool to help assess the skills needed for specific jobs. Illinois Central College has begun including this credential for many of its career and technical students.

“The National Career Readiness Certificate is designed to be an industry-recognized, portable, evidence-based credential that certifies essential skills needed for workplace success,” explains Dr. William Tammone, ICC provost. The credential is used throughout the country in all sectors of the economy and verifies problem solving, critical thinking and other analytical skills.

The NCRC is based on the WorkKeys system, which includes more than just tests. Its foundation is a skills metric that enables assessment results to be linked directly to specific job codes established by O*net, the job classification system used by federal agencies. This means employers who want to know how well applicants will perform the tasks for a specific occupation can use the WorkKeys system to find out. For example, an employer looking for a retail salesperson might want to compare an applicant’s skills with the tasks for that job. That employer can visit the ACT website and use WorkKeys Occupational Profiles ( to identify the level of foundational skills needed to perform tasks commonly assigned to this position.

WorkKeys assessments measure eight skill areas: applied mathematics, reading for information, locating information, applied technology, writing, listening, teamwork, and observation. Applicants who complete WorkKeys assessments for these skill areas will be able to demonstrate to the employer how their skills will contribute to their performance on the job. The NCRC encompasses the three skill areas—reading for information, applied mathematics and locating information—most commonly reported as essential by WorkKeys Occupational Profiles.

“Majors and college programs provide students with specific, discipline-related knowledge and skills,” Tammone says. “A WorkKeys-based credential gives students another dimension in proving they’re ready for work. A degree in agricultural sales, for example, demonstrates they’ve learned the material associated in the field of agriculture. WorkKeys assessments and the NCRC enable them to demonstrate that they have the broad-based skills needed for a sales job. The two work hand-in-glove.”

While different colleges and universities teach different material and use different instructional methods, WorkKeys tests are standardized and present comparable results wherever they are administered. The skills associated with various occupations are identified by ACT using focused research based on input from employers and supervisors who are familiar with the job tasks, and employees who actually do the job. According to ACT, “More than 18,000 job titles, ranging from white-collar professional to blue-collar technical positions have been profiled by ACT-authorized job profilers. Extensive research has been done on these jobs to identify the essential skills and skill levels for employee selection, hiring, and training.”

ICC offers students access to assessments for all WorkKeys skill areas and is now incorporating applied mathematics, locating information and reading for information into its occupational and technical degree and certificate programs. Students who successfully complete these assessments will qualify for the NCRC, which is issued at four levels—platinum, gold, silver or bronze—based on the scores achieved. Once they qualify, students receive an ID number that links their credentials to a website that they can give to prospective employers. The website enables employers to use the ID number to verify the student’s results as the basis for comparing him or her to the skills needed for a particular job. iBi

For more information about the WorkKeys program at ICC, contact Dr. Michael Boyd, associate dean, at [email protected] or visit the ACT website at