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New Test Helps Employers Nab More Qualified Employees

National Cancer Institute via Wikimedia Commons

The state of Utah has adopted a new workforce assessment that officials hope will give the most highly qualified job applicants an advantage.

Sometimes it’s tough to stand out in a sea of job applicants with similar credentials. And it can be just as difficult for employers to spot the best candidates. Dr. Carol Lynn George is the science advisor in Governor Gary Herbert’s Office of Economic Development. She says Utah business owners have been clamoring for a new way to measure those hard-to-quantify skills that set job candidates apart. Enter— the ACT WorkKeys exam, which George says measures an applicant’s real-world skills.

“It’s the type of thing where, if you take any two people that have the same degree coming out of the same institution, it’s the kind of thing that HR is typically calling the references about to say how did these people actually perform on the job,” George says.

The three-part exam measures a candidate’s ability to locate information, solve practical math problems and comprehend text.  It’s created by ACT, which is best known for its college entrance exam.

With successful completion the candidate is rewarded ACT’s National Career Readiness Certificate. 

George says not only will the test benefit individuals and businesses, but it will also advance economic development on a larger scale.

“When a critical mass of people in any one area has earned the certificates, the ACT program itself will give the community a certification,” George says. “So that can help with companies we’re trying to recruit to the state to be able to say that the community itself has been certified.”

The Department of Workforce Services set aside about $340,000 to purchase the exams. Employers of all sizes can opt to use it as a tool. DWS officials say if the program gains traction among employers, more and more job seekers will be taking the test as part of the hiring process.  

Whittney Evans grew up southern Ohio and has worked in public radio since 2005. She has a communications degree from Morehead State University in Morehead, Kentucky, where she learned the ropes of reporting, producing and hosting. Whittney moved to Utah in 2009 where she became a reporter, producer and morning host at KCPW. Her reporting ranges from the hyper-local issues affecting Salt Lake City residents, to state-wide issues of national interest. Outside of work, she enjoys playing the guitar and getting to know the breathtaking landscape of the Mountain West.
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