Full Discussion: Work Readiness Credentials April 9 - 18

Full Discussion

Melissa Dayton:


Connecticut and Indiana are establishing workforce readiness
certificates based on the CASAS Workforce Skills Certification System.
Attached is a copy of the COABE presentation, "Workforce Skills
Certificates: Enhancing Curriculum and Student Outcomes", which Dan Wann
of the Indiana Adult Education Professional Development Project and I
co-presented. The session generated many good questions, and we look
forward to this week's discussion.

Melissa Dayton

Adult Training and Development Network

Capitol Region Education Council

111 Charter Oak Avenue

Hartford, CT 06106



Thanks for sharing your materials, Melissa and Dan. Dan, I hope it is
agreeable with you if we address questions to you too this week.

I notice in the Indiana portion of your presentation that the Indiana
Workforce Education Project is (was) "industry driven" and that the main
industries served were manufacturing, agriculture, hospitality/tourism,
and transportation/logistics. How were these sectors targeted?

Another question: One of your slides says that "98 classes were held in
60 companies with 1,074 students" and that 232 of these were dislocated
or unemployed workers. Were these workers being provided these classes
by the companies they had previously worked for as some sort of a
severance package? If not, where did they come from and were their
classes also held on company premises?

And a question for all our discussants: Where does the funding for
credentialing programs come from? Are they generally held in workplaces
with cooperation from the company or are they usually pre-employment

Thanks in advance for helping us understand how this has worked for you.

Donna Brian, Moderator

Workplace Literacy Discussion List


Dan Wann:

I will try and answer your questions as best as I can. I have also asked
Timmie Westfall who is the Workforce Literacy Education Project Director for
Division of Adult Education, IDOE to join in this discussion. She was
originally going to be on the panel with Melissa and myself but her schedule
did not allow her to attend COABE this year.

  1. Industry Driven-there are several factors that make this project
    industry driven. The Indiana Department of Workforce Development has a
    Strategic Skills Initiative and many of the industry sectors mentioned in
    the IN presentation are the same. Also, the company must ask for the class,
    and yes, we do market our services to business and industry. But the
    starting point and first customer is the business itself. They must be full
    partners in the class and have a representative that helps set goals for the
    class, participates in an advisory committee, and further all companies are
    expected to make a financial commitment to support the class and the
    employees who attend. A third and major factor that makes this project
    industry led is the emphasis on local needs and demands. As in all states
    there is a huge variety in business and industry from size of the company,
    product or services offered, and the make up the local workforce. The needs
    of northwest Indiana near Chicago are vastly different from the more rural
    southeastern corner of the state that border Ohio and Kentucky.
  2. Dislocated workers-the workers referred to on that slide represent
    those served in our program last year. We have been delivering Workplace
    Literacy Education since 2000 and usually have a similar proportion of
    dislocated workers. Most of these workers are receiving both state and
    company assistance in re-training efforts. In South Bend, IN the Workforce
    Literacy class was held at the WorkOne (One Stop) office with the goal of
    assisting the worker to bring skills up to a level to enter one of the more
    formal credentialing or training programs. At another location in
    Connersville, IN the class was held at the company with multiple partners
    providing a variety of training programs. Again the Adult Education class'
    primary goal is to help raise the basic skill level of the worker so they
    can meet entry criteria of the various training classes.
  3. Funding-there is a variety of funding sources. The Workforce
    Literacy Project is a major initiative for the Division of Adult Education
    which supports the project with training and state staff as well as
    programming dollars. The companies also contribute to a degree. There are
    three regional Workforce Educational Specialists who assist business and
    local adult education programs in applying for grants from other state
    agencies for workforce development training funds when appropriate. It
    takes a lot of creativity and a combination of resources. At time the
    Workforce Education project is exploring a Fee for Service model.
  4. Curriculum-while not asked this question here I am adding a comment.
    >From the beginning of the Workforce project in 2000 we have focused on a
    customized curriculum based on the workplace itself and the needs of the
    employees to function effectively on the job. While we may use some
    published materials, all teachers are trained and expected to go into the
    worksite, meet with employees and supervisors and then develop curricula
    materials and activities that utilize workplace documents. While this does
    lead back to the first question about being industry driven, it also
    provides a rich classroom experience for the working adult student.


Dan Wann

Professional Development Consultant

Indiana Adult Education Professional Development Project
dlwann at comcast.net



Dan's comment about one class being held at the One Stop office makes me
wonder about the involvement of One Stops in general in the certificate
programs. It seems like such a natural partnering. From the experience
of our guests and others on the list, do One Stops take the lead in this
adoption of credentialing programs? Do they at least support it? How
does that work out in practice?

Donna Brian


Judy Titzel:

State workforce development systems, including one-stops, were one of the driving forces in the development of the National Work Readiness Credential. It was the workforce systems' -- particularly in NY, NJ and FL -- desire to more effectively address the needs of their clients (i.e. businesses) in providing workers with strong entry level skills that motivated those states to come together with NIFL to develop the National Work Readiness Credential. Currently, the NWRC Assessment is being delivered online through one-stops (among other venues) as the NWRC tests the delivery system before going public. It seems like a good fit.

Judy Titzel

Adult Education Specialist

Providence, RI



Workplace discussants,

If you have remaining questions or comments about work credentials, now
is the time to submit them! This has been a very busy week for some of
our guests, even before they agreed to monitor our discussion and
contribute their thoughts, and some of their responses are still "in the
pipeline". They have all joined the discussion list now, and may be
available later for your questions, but it would still be better for us
to focus the discussion today and through the weekend.

One question I would still like to know the answer to is, "Are the three
major ways of assessing work readiness, CASAS, WorkKeys, and WRC
credentials ever used to complement each other, or are they mutually




Dan Wann:


In our case, Indiana, the department of workforce development elected to use
WorkKeys as the Workforce Credential and that credential in Indiana is
similar to the description that was given by the folks from Ohio.

The DWD was interested also in the incumbent workforce that appeared to be
below the WorkKeys level 3 and developed a complimentary 3 level
certification using CASAS. There were discussions at various levels and
with different staff from both DWD and the Division of Adult Education prior
to the direct consultation with DWD and CASAS. As our State Certified CASAS
trainer I provided initial training on CASAS and then CASAS staff helped to
finalize the final stages of the three level certificate based on the CASAS
scale that could lead an incumbent worker onto the WorkKeys three level

To explore the need for training at the adult basic skills levels, The DWD
sent out an RFP for workforce literacy training that targeted this lower
level. Since that project has not completed its cycle, information on
number of participants, levels, and outcomes is not yet available.

Several of the IDOE funded adult education programs are partners in the
above mentioned grants that had to have an employer focus and the division
of adult education also provided training and consultation services for the
DWD project grantees.

I think that for the Basic Skills network and by that I mean those agencies
the serve individuals who perform below a high school 12th grade level and
are developing certificates or other types of recognition of skill
advancement, need to consider how our system articulates with "cut score" or
entry level skill level needed for a variety of other training programs from
entry into post secondary education to other certification systems such as
the MSSC certificate.

Dan Wann

Professional Development Consultant

Indiana Adult Education Professional Development Project

dlwann at comcast.net


Priscilla Carman:

Good morning all,

I have some questions about work readiness credentials for the
various guests that may not pertain to the basics of the topic
exactly but I would love to hear your thoughts at some point if you
discuss the basics first.

  1. As states, regions, local communities etc. make the many
    decisions regarding work credentials, does the local high
    school have a role in the discussions and if so, how? And how do
    employers weigh the value of a work credential vs. high school
    diploma or its equivalency?
  2. It seems there are so many factors that must be deliberated at
    many levels (local and up) and I'm wondering how different states
    made their decisions about the scope of the credential and where
    decisions are made and finalized.

Any thoughts and words of wisdom you have to share would be greatly
appreciated, especially by those states that are still exploring this
whole inititative.

Best regards and thank you in advance! Priscilla Carman


Priscilla S. Carman

Literacy Specialist

Institute for the Study of Adult Literacy

The Pennsylvania State University

208F Rackley Building

University Park, PA 16802-3202

PH: 814-865-1049 FX: 814-863-6108


Louis Soares:


My own experience working with education, workforce and business
stakeholders in different states is that there are a myriad of approaches
out there.

Some states are beginning their work readiness discussion in K-12, some in
workforce and some in both.

Where the policy level discussion begins seems to have the greatest impact
on which stakeholders in a state are the most active.

For example, in Missouri they developed a workplace essential curriculum in
their K-12 system and the policy group is trying to figure out how it
applies there first. Kentucky adult education distance learning initiatives
are aligning their curricula to different credentials, The National Work
Readiness Credential being one such example.

In Minnesota, there is a partnership of adult education and One Stop
employer services looking at a range of tools to use but most likely will
end up using a portfolio of solutions.

The business community in these states is involved to one degree or another
but still is trying to figure out where states will land. A core challenge
in this regard is that the immediate human capital needs of businesses
sometimes take a back seat to the necessary public sector policy making
process and business gets frustrated.

One good thought for public sector and non-profit professionals to keep in
mind is that business currently uses a variety of tools in their HR
recruitment and talent development process, and each company is different
based on culture and business model, so the public sector shouldn't try for
a one size fits all tool. It is not the reality of business. Rather we
should make the available tools as easy to sustain in the marketplace as
possible. Easy to sustain applied to recruitment as well as talent
development in real time work situations.

For the NWRC in our area of entry level work skills, we believe that this is
one of the benefits of the NWRC, its simple communication, interpersonal,
decision-making and learning skills quartet are simple enough to be used in
recruitment processes but also in coaching relationships with frontline

Hope this helps.

Louis Soares

Executive Director

National Work Readiness Council

1615 H Street NW

Washington, DC 20062

Ph: 401-451-3982

email: louis.soares at workreadiness.com

website: www.workreadiness.com


Adrienne Glandon:

Good morning,

When we worked on the CRC field test in Ohio, the field testing was
conducted through ABLE programs, local high schools were not directly
involved. The credential is not intended as a replacement for the HS
diploma or GED. Hopefully, the credential is something the student would
attain while working toward a GED. Or, for example, if the student is a
dislocated worker who already has a diploma or GED, the credential would
help them to compete in the workforce.

To answer the other question, Ohio is currently engaged in discussions about
going to scale with the CRC. In the previous government administration, the
Governor's Workforce Policy Board had made recommendations for using
WorkKeys. We now have a new Governor, so that is currently in flux.
Ideally, the credential will be most effective if it's supported by the
Governor. Ohio's Department of Education's ABLE strategic plan does however
identify the CRC as a high priority.

Adrienne Glandon

The Ohio State University

Center on Education and Training for Employment


Sidna Holloway:

In reply to question one: I don't think work readiness credentials are
designed to replace HS diplomas or the GED certificate. It is my
understanding that the basic elements are (at least for the EFF WRC) are
being integrated into school curriculum from kindergarten through twelfth
grade. I can only speak about EFF: educators from students through
administrators and beyond provided input, design, content, training and
implementation of the final product in a variety of areas. My state is a
charter member and it now uses EFF via the Dept of Labor which has
implemented it at the one stop employment centers. It also must be pointed
out that, while educators played a critical role, so did the US Dept of
Labor and industry leaders and major corporations who were sincerely
concerned about the quality of work skills of the entry level worker and
cognizant of the needs of the industries and businesses who hire them.
(Sadly, a HS diploma/GED credential does not necessarily certify work place
literacy or work place skills). WRC focuses on the literacy standards
needed to be successful in the work place as the HS diploma and GED focus on
the literacy standards determined by the federal and respective states. I
feel that WRC complements rather than competes with the HS diplomas/GED
credential. I also feel that if a employer was considering two equally
qualified candidates and one of them also held the WRC, that would be the
candidate that got hired. The statement is based on what the WRC is. (See
pre-discussion attachment).

SidnaAnn Holloway



Work skills programs and work certificates are entirely new subjects for me.
I am glad that I subscribed to the discussion. I was very touched by
the anecdotal information from the instructor and the students in one of
the Work Certificate Programs. I think it was the one in Ohio.

I browsed through the nifl messages from the Workplace discussion list.
I scrolled up and down from 404 and came across the CAELA information
regarding the amount of foreign born employees who entered the job
market in the 21st century.

I guess that what caught my attention the most was the insights
regarding interaction between work and language skills. The different
approaches described to help workers whose language competence requires
improvement sound really interesting.

I have a question but I am not sure if I am on target with the nature of
the discussion. While credentials enable workers to improve their self
esteem and carry legal and professional value, they also seem to punish
the workers that have not had the opportunity to participate in programs
like the ones I read about.

The amount of Latino adult students captured in data as "waiting list",
plus the statistical information forwarded by Jackie Taylor regarding
gains in literacy skill across ethnicities and ages, makes me wonder if
the certificates open a wider gap not only between documented and non
documented workers, but also among American and foreign workers of all

I have the feeling that adult certification can potentially reproduce
the same inequities derived from public education that it aims to

My questions must then be related to funding. Work skills certificates
are expensive from the point of view of the employer. What percentage
of the workers have access to work skills programs? And do certificates
broaden the gap among workers in America?

We would benefit from knowing what research tells us about public
education and what age is at the highest risk of needing future
correction of inequities and lack of access to social, technical and
cultural capital.



Norma Rey-Alicea:

Good afternoon,

In the process of researching our paper on work readiness certificates, I had the opportunity to interview numerous stakeholders (e.g., employers, community college staff, certifying agents) to gauge the costs and benefits of such credentials. I wish that I had also had the opportunity to interview test-takers because--aside from "testimonials"--their perspective is not prominent enough in current documentation on this topic. It'd be very informative to learn more about how test takers heard about "x" certificate; what their experience was in earning one (particularly if it required skills training); and their take on if and to what extent employers value the
credential. Clearly, it is crucial that these certificates have the buy-in of employers. All of the major models emphasize the role that employer feedback has played in their development, promoting their certificates as demand-responsive, and therefore, more likely to be sustainable. Yet it also important that we do not lose sense of the "dual customer" concept here. For
example, how would a low-income individual who walks into a One-Stop Center evaluate the currency of these certificates? What would she think of how current programs train students or provide referral services with the goal of helping her to earn a credential?

I also discovered in my research that, in general, we need more data to answer some of the tough questions that have been asked in this forum, including whether these certificates broaden the gap among U.S. workers by potentially reproducing the same inequities found in our educational system. Without more data on how effective these certificates are in increasing hiring potential and earnings, increasing job retention, and fostering advancement, we will have insufficient information to analyze any gaps or improvements they can create in the stability of our workforce. Given that a postsecondary education is becoming increasingly necessary to earn a family-sustaining income, the spokespeople for these credentials must be able to make the case--with numbers--for how these credentials "fit" at a time when being "work ready" not only encompasses having a certain level of math and communications skills, but also knowing how to send an email, for example. The nature of many jobs is changing due to technology and the "digital divide" is well-documented along class and racial lines. Developers of these credentials have many issues to consider, including the dynamic nature of our country's demographics and industries.

I find the language associated with these credentials fascinating. The categorization "work ready" itself is problematic in many ways because it can represent different sets and levels of skills that are often industry specific or geographically bound. One can be "work ready" in one field, but not in another. For this reason, certificates like the National Work Readiness Credential state that they are intended for people seeking a credential that documents their readiness for entry-level work.

None of the models claim that their certificate is meant to replace a high school diploma or GED. One could see them as a rapid turn-around credential, which is especially beneficial for low-income people who may not have the time or the circumstances conducive to going back to school and earning a high school diploma or GED (e.g., due to financial barriers, family obligations, lack of support services such as child care and transportation, etc.). One could also see them as complementary to a high school diploma or equivalency, as mentioned in one of our postings. Yet others view any comparison as apples to oranges, arguing that the typical high school curricula does not sufficiently teach "employability" skills and that these credentials can capture soft skills in addition to those we consider more "academic" in nature. As our report described, employers in all sectors highly value soft skills (e.g., customer service, leadership, reliability including timeliness). It would be great to see how these kinds of credentials might influence things like high school curricula in better preparing our young people to compete in this global economy. . .

It is my hope that certifying agents ensure that these certificates do not become one more barrier to underserved individuals' ability to compete in the workforce by paying attention to issues of access and investment. Keeping the cost of training and test-taking at a minimum is obviously critical--and it often requires the close collaboration and investment of the public and private sectors. Language, as mentioned in Nadia's thoughtful posting, is an issue that some models are contemplating in their program design. Last year, the Work Certified Program of the WDB of the Treasure Coast was looking into possibly providing its comprehensive exam for certification in Spanish. Sections of the test for the National Work Readiness Credential allow the test taker to hear the questions being asked in addition to seeing them (Louis, please correct me here if inaccurate). KeyTrain's curriculum for WorkKeys and its three main tests are all available in Spanish (also correct me here if I'm mistaken). Making sure that certificate programs and testing are widely publicized and accessible in low-income communities through community-based organizations (often more frequented by underserved people than One-Stops)is another approach to increasing access. If these credentialing programs want to help low-income, low-literate communities become more competitive in the workforce, they must be able to prove a return on investment with data. They should also work closely with the kinds of organizations that already serve these communities effectively.

Thank you all for sharing your thoughtful questions/comments and for giving me the opportunity to participate. Warm regards to Melissa and Louis, who helped me to explore this topic when I first learned about it!


Norma Rey-Alicea

Project Manager, Building Economic Opportunity Group

Jobs for the Future


Sidna Holloway:

Thank-you for such a comprehensive response. With your permission, I would
very much like to forward it to my supervisor who is interested in the WRC.
The population I work with consists of homeless veterans in early recovery.
I strongly feel such a credential would greatly enhance their
employability. I encourage all to keep in mind that the credential can be an asset
in obtaining an entry level position providing promotion and career potential as
opposed a dead end job disguised as 'entry level."

Best Regards

Sidna Holloway


Paul Jurmo:

Hi, Everyone,

Here are a few more (tardy) comments for the discussion on work readiness certification:

  1. A work readiness credential should:
    • not be an "add-on," but an information tool to be used in a well-designed and well-supported system that integrates workforce development and adult education;
    • be based on a well-researched understanding of the skills and knowledge needed to get and succeed in a range of entry-level jobs;
    • be widely disseminated (through professional development and other means) to all stakeholders (adult educators, workforce development specialists, employers, labor unions, community groups, K-12 schools, etc.), so they all understand and use it in their respective roles in the workforce system;
    • be tied to education systems (e.g., relevant curricula, well-supported practitioners) for job-seekers and incumbent workers that can help workers develop the skills and knowledge identified in the assessment.
  2. Putting such a system in place is a big undertaking. Researchers and policy analysts have been talking about the need for building well-integrated state workforce development systems for at least a decade, but this requires well-informed and strong leadership and an infrastructure of well-prepared and -supported staff to put the pieces together. Even when local stakeholders are willing to think outside the box, break down old silos, and try new ways of doing things, they need support (tools, guidance) to do so.
  3. Given the huge financial strains our state governments, communities, and employers and labor unions are now under, we need to "work smarter" and find ways to build these systems efficiently, build on what has already been done and learned in the field, and avoid reinventing the wheel. Thus, those who are trying to build state systems need to share best practices across states and advocate for support for effective systems from the national level (of both government and business and labor)). I think this on-line discussion and the recent workforce pre-conference day at the COABE conference are good examples of such communications. I also look forward to reading the review of work readiness credentials mentioned by the Jobs for the Future representative.
  4. The non-credit division of our community college is trying to put together a county-level workforce development initiative. Assessment (of both individuals and employer workforce needs) and relevant curricula will be key components of such a system. We look forward to learning from what others are doing around the country (and world) on these issues and will be happy to share what we learn.

Paul Jurmo, Ed.D.

Dean, Economic Development and Continuing Education

Union County College

12-24 West Jersey St.

Elizabeth, New Jersey 07202

Jurmo at ucc.edu


Mary Lewis:

Hello, folks.

I "second" the comments of Paul Jurmo and in that vein add:

  1. A concern about work readiness assessments that rely on written or
    reading skills beyond what's actually required on the job; I'd hate for
    tools to "underrank" jobseekers because their literacy levels aren't
    high enough for the assessment but are fine for the work they have been
    doing and even some work they could advance/move laterally into
  2. A concern about work readiness assessments that rely on English
    language competency beyond what's actually required on the job by the
    job duties; again not wanting tools to be universally promoted that
    "underrank" jobseekers because certain aspects of English literacy are
    required for the assessment tool but aren't required for the work they
    have been doing and even some work they could advance/move laterally

We see too many instances where English language skills are somewhat
'automatically' required without stopping to think about or define what
aspect of English (read, write, speak, understand) is actually needed or
can be legally required, and to what degree of fluency. This
unfortunately includes training classes intended for ELL folks but which
are both designed to require pretty high English functioning as well as
advertised only in English, with the belief that if someone can't read
the flyer their English isn't sufficient enough for the training.

With the workforce issues in the US, I would not like to see 'work
readiness creditional' requirements developed without thoughtful and
legal attention to the issues of English language fluency.

Thanks for your attention. And if there are models out there which
have or are successfully addressing or trying to address my concerns,
I'd love to get contact information for them.

Mary Lewis

Monitor Advocate for Farmworker Services

Oregon Employment Department
Mary.L.Lewis at state.or.us


Susan Reid:

Hi Mary

You and others might be interested in the sort of analysis we have done
for some job roles


We are hoping to add to this list


Susan Reid

Manager, Learning and Development

Workbase: The New Zealand Centre for Workforce Literacy Development

Website: www.workbase.org.nz

See New Zealand Literacy Portal


Donna Weitz:


The discussions are very interesting and thought provoking. Thank you.
Can you please tell me what ELL stands for?

Donna Weitz

Senior Program Planner

Labour Force Development Branch

Alberta Employment, Immigration and Industry

6th Floor, Centre West

10035 - 108 Street

Edmonton AB T5J 3E1

780 422-6831


Laurie Sheridan:

It stands for "English Language Learner" or "Learners."

To me this provides a good reason for us to try to avoid acronyms!

Laurie Sheridan


Dan Wann:

ELL--English Language Learner (refers to the student)

ESL-- English as Second Language (refers more to the program)

ENL--English as a New Language

L1--native or first language

L2--language other than L1 (many people speak several languages)

Just part of the alphabet soup, I hope this helps.

Dan Wann


Tommy McDonell:

Who does ENL refer to?

Tommy B. McDonell, Ph.D.

Adjunct Assistant Professor

Multilingual Multicultural Studies

Steinhardt School of Education

New York University

239 Greene Street, 6th Floor

New York, NY 10003

Home: 212-929-6768

Work: 212-242-6800 x 152

Cell: 917-514-1354

Email: tbr202 at nyu.edu


Dan Wann:

ENL can refer to the student. Sometimes the student is multilingual and is
just beginning to learn English while another student is a monolingual
speaker who is also just beginning to learn English. The term was developed
because some in the field wanted to recognize those students studying
English may have already learned a second or foreign language and had some
knowledge and skill in second language acquisition. The term has also been
used to describe the program especially in the K-12 arena.

Dan Wann


Donna Weitz:

Thanks very much. We've used ESL for decades; however we're now being
told to convert everything to "English as an additional language" - EAL.
Interesting. One more in the soup.


Donna Weitz



Workplace Literacy Discussion List Members,

I want to thank all who participated in this discussion on work/career readiness certificates/credentials, both by discussing and asking questions on the list and by following the discussion as a reader. I hope you enjoyed it.

Special thanks to our guests, Norma Rey-Alicea, Geri Scott, Traci Lepicki, Adrienne Glandon, Louis Soares, Lanse Davis, Judy Titzel, Jane Eguez, Melissa Dayton, and Dan Wann. This was a busy week for many of them, and they were gracious in agreeing to follow the discussion and contribute their thoughts and experiences for our benefit. There may still be some posts coming from some of them as they have more time to read and think.

There may yet be more questions in your minds too, and it is fine if the discussion continues after the scheduled time slot. We have lots of people on the list with pertinent experience, and several of the guests are now on the list and may be inclined to continue as list contributors during any further discussion.

There are other discussions scheduled in April on other lists that will interest some of you. (See workplace post #691.) I especially want to remind you of the discussion beginning Monday on issues related to adult ESL and workplace education. To subscribe, go to

Good Day/Evening!


Donna Brian, Moderator

Workplace Literacy Discussion List

Center for Literacy Studies at The University of Tennessee
djgbrian at utk.edu

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