Ouachita Parish became the first parish on the I-20 corridor to obtain the status of an ACT Certified Work Ready Community as of May 22. 

The availability of skilled workers is a primary concern for businesses considering an expansion or a move to Ouachita Parish, according to local government and business officials.

“Having a strong and skilled workforce helps shape our vibrant community in Monroe and Ouachita Parish,” said Monroe Mayor Jamie Mayo.  “Reaching this goal takes commitment from various stakeholders.  The hard work begins within our Monroe City and Ouachita Parish School Systems.  The connection with Louisiana Delta Community College, the Monroe Chamber of Commerce, and other partners, ensure our having a fluid system of connected agencies dedicated to helping equip youth and adults with the skills needed to be valuable assets to existing and potentially new businesses.   We are Monroe Proud to be an ACT Certified Work Ready Community and look forward to the continued growth of our local skilled workforce and economy.”  

The Monroe Chamber of Commerce partnered with the ACT Work Ready Communities (AWRC) initiative to help our employers better identify, recruit, hire and retain qualified workers. 

The standards set by AWRC were high and all the goals were attained in record speed since the official kick off began in mid-February.  To earn the Certified Work Ready status, ACT required Ouachita parish to recruit at least 120 employers that will recognize ACT’s WorkKeys certifications. In addition, at least 3192 students, unemployed individuals, transitional workers and veterans had to take the WorkKeys test.  The Ouachita parish effort exceeded those expectations. In Ouachita Parish 147 employers pledged to recognize the WorkKeys certifications and 4304 individuals took the WorkKeys test.

“We are grateful to Kathy Gardner, Chamber Executive Vice President, who led this effort. We are delighted to see this initiative’s success in Ouachita Parish,” said Monroe Chamber President and CEO Sue Nicholson. “This is only the beginning. We know that as more businesses recognize the importance of the using the WorkKeys certification we can help our businesses make better hiring decisions. As more people take the test and understand that it provides a credential, the more we can help them find good jobs where they can be successful.” 

The WorkKeys certification assessments are a series of tests that an individual takes to see if they are ready for entry level positions.  The assessments are broken into three areas; Applied Math, Graphic Literacy and Workplace Documents. 

Students in the Jump Start program in Monroe City high schools and Ouachita Parish high schools have already been taking the WorkKeys test.  Adult education students, jobseekers at the One Stop employment offices and students enrolled in Louisiana Delta Community College technical study programs also take the test.

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