Leah Irvin is on a mission to recruit more than a few good men and women who have a desire to improve their job skills.

Leah Irvin is on a mission to recruit more than a few good men and women who have a desire to improve their job skills.

“I always tell people that it leads to a better life for you and it is more investment in your community,” she said.

Irvin is coordinator of the local Workforce Alliance for Growth in the Economy (WAGE) program, a job readiness training program led by the Adult Education Division of the Arkansas Department of Career Education.

During the WAGE Advisory Committee Meeting on Friday, Irvin reported that 51 people earned WAGE certificates in Jefferson County in 2011-2012. The number is a decline in the 64 certificates previously awarded through the program which is affiliated with the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.

“We need more referrals that have an interest in improving their basic skills,” she said, explaining that WAGE training is available at no cost to workers, people seeking employment, and business and industry partners.

The program offers six state-issued certificates: Employability, Industrial, Banking, Clerical, Banking, and Customer Service Level I and Level II. Irvin said that the tally of certificates awarded since the committee’s meeting in June is: 19 Employability, two Industrial, two Clerical and one Customer Service.

WAGE classes meet at the Adult Education center at 414 Walnut St.

“I feel that we are making excellent progress at the Walnut location and currently have 24 students

enrolled,” she said. “Three of them WAGE tested this week and passed. One of the students is

from the URS Group and heard about the program through the Governor’s Dislocated Task

Force. Her plan is to continue working towards the Industrial Certificate.”

WAGE classes meet Monday through Wednesday from 1 to 5 p.m. Irvin explained that the central Jefferson County location is the Walnut Street center.

“This is where all testing and intake occurs for all classes,” including GED classes, she said.

GED and basic academic sessions are offered at the center all week during the day and evening and at other locations in Jefferson County.

Irvin describes the WAGE program as one of the community’s “best kept secrets.” Local business and industry partners give added consideration in hiring WAGE certificate holders. The program is seeking more local employers to serve as partners with the program.

“We now have a link to WAGE information that can be put on any business and industry website,” she said. “We will work to customize this link and improve it continually.”

The next WAGE Advisory Committee Meeting is Feb. 8. Jefferson County business and industry leaders who are interested in joining the committee or in using the link should contact Irvin at irvinl@uapb.edu. Workers or people seeking employment and want to learn more about the free WAGE program should also contact Irvin at irvinl@uapb.edu.