Editor’s Note: “The Economic Development Side” originally appears in the Pine Bluff Regional Chamber of Commerce’s weekly member e-newsletter. It is written by Rhonda Dishner, the Economic Development Alliance’s executive assistant.

Alliance President Lou Ann Nisbett continues - -with almost crusade-like zeal — her efforts to publicize the importance of Jefferson County’s attaining certification as an ACT® Work Ready Community.

This time she was addressing a group of training and education professionals, including local public school superintendents, who were attending a retreat. Not by coincidence, audience members represented the three counties that are participating jointly to ensure workforce readiness for this region.

The retreat’s planners had asked for Nisbett’s presentation. They wanted participants to better understand the ACT certification process and learn more about the standardized workforce skills credential—the ACT National Career Readiness Certificate®—and what it means for area employers and employees.

Also on the agenda as a tandem speaker at the June 18 retreat was Eddie Thomas, area manager for South Arkansas Workforce Centers through Southeast Arkansas Economic Development District. Thomas helped lay the groundwork for the program’s April launch for the three counties: Arkansas, Grant and Jefferson. And his enthusiasm for the ACT Work Ready Communities “mission” closely matches Nisbett’s.

Utilizing a national framework to grow the local workforce has obvious benefits for employers. They would have the valuable resource often cited as desperately needed: a pool of employees with documented essential skills.

For the purpose of ACT participation, employees in the labor force can be grouped into three categories, Nisbett told retreat attendees. The Current Workforce includes those already employed but who may be looking to move up to a better position. The Transitioning Workforce is comprised of the unemployed and those enrolled in adult education programs. The Emerging Workforce is primarily made up of recent high school graduates and college students. And all would benefit in their future job searches by having earned a nationally recognized certificate of proficiency, Nisbett stressed.

She also asked participants to pull up the ACT website on their smartphones and sign up, on the spot, in support of the three-county Work Ready Communities initiative. That website can be found at https://www.workreadycommunities.org/business/form.

And it’s expected that Nisbett will give this talk repeatedly until the community’s goals are met under the work ready program.