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Upcoming Events

ACT Workforce Summit

Save the date: October 28-30, 2019
Charlotte, North Carolina

2019-10-28 09:00:00 2019-10-30 17:00:00 America/New_York ACT Workforce Summit See you at the 2019 ACT Workforce Summit Charlotte, North Carolina ACT, Inc.

Work Ready Communities Boot Camp 

Sessions: April 17-18 and July 17-18
Omaha, Nebraska

ACT State Organizations Events

Ohio ACT Conference 

January 29-30, 2019
Renaissance Columbus
Columbus, OH

Work Smart Nevada

February 8, 2019
Western Nevada College
Carson City, NV

Minnesota Conference 

February 8, 2019
DoubleTree by Hilton
Minneapolis, MN

Arkansas ACT Summit 

March 4, 2019
Arkansas State University-Beebe
Beebe, AR


Iowa ACT Conference 

March 6, 2019
The Hotel at Kirkwood Center
Cedar Rapids, IA

Wisconsin ACT Conference 

March 8, 2019
Madison Marriott West
Madison, WI

Oklahoma ACT Leadership Summit 

March 13
Oklahoma State University – Student Union
Stillwater, OK

Ask the Expert: How Does Job Profiling Work?

Now is the Time to Add a Job Profiler to Your Team

Job profiles are a form of analysis which bring a level of fairness to the process, such as aligning job requirements directly to job demands. Learn from ACT expert, Helen Palmer, Director of Industrial/Organizational Psychology, how it works and adds value for employers and their employees. 

Upcoming Deadline for WorkKeys Job Profiling Training

Ready to add a Job Profiler to your team?

Are you considering training a member of your team as a Job Profiler? This team member can work with learning institutions and employers to document the WorkKeys skills needed for success in training programs and in jobs. ACT Job Profiling training consists of distance-learning activities completed over 6 weeks and culminates with an onsite workshop at ACT headquarters in Iowa City to put your learning to practice and participate in simulations.

Distance Learning Begins: February 11, 2019 
On-Site Workshop dates: March 26-29, 2019 
Deadline to register: January 25, 2019


Distance Learning Begins: April 22, 2019 
On-Site Workshop dates: June 4-7, 2019 
Deadline to register: March 29, 2019

For information and registration, call 319-337-1724 or learn more here.

Here’s the Scoop on Essential Skills: What are they? Why are they important? 

Jason Way, PhD, Senior Research Psychologist at ACT

When evaluating candidates for a vacant position or current staff for a promotion, many factors go into the decision. Essential skills in the workplace have received a bit of buzz lately, and, at ACT, we know the value they have in the workplace. 

Essential skills, also known as soft skills, employability skills, or social and emotional skills, are skills that differ from traditional cognitive skills and are key constituents of career readiness and success. Essential skills predict job performance, job satisfaction, income and occupational prestige, success at work, and even well-being. Research shows that these skills are amenable to change, particularly through direct intervention.  

A valuable component of essential skills is that they can be measured, as with Tessera Workforce, and developed through the Tessera Workforce Playbook, just like technical skills. This is important since cognitive skills prove to be more important for job performance when an employee starts a new job. When starting a new job, the employee needs to learn the ins and outs of a job, and they are likely trying to impress their new colleagues. That being said, in the long term essential skills become more important for job performance as they settle into their new role and develop a routine. Therefore, during most of an employee’s time in an organization, essential skills play a larger role in determining their job performance and level of effort than their cognitive skills. 

The positive effects from interventions to develop essential skills can last many years. In education-base programs, there was an $11 ROI for every $1 spent on essential skill programming. The positive impacts from increasing essential skills: 

    ✔ Likely a substantial ROI in investment in essential skill training and development
    ✔ Better job performance and satisfaction from employees
    ✔ More creative, collaborative employees as jobs become more dynamic, team-based, and project-based
    ✔ Lower turnover, leading to lower recruitment, hiring, and training costs 

Putting the Research into Practice

77% of employers believe essential skills are just as important as technical, or hard skills, according to a national study by CareerBuilder1

In two separate efforts, Google investigated what skills lead to the most success2.

In 2013, Google Project Oxygen shocked everyone by concluding that among the most important qualities of Google’s top employees, STEM expertise came in dead last. The top seven characteristics for success are all essential skills

Google Manager Behaviors:

  • Is a good coach
  • Empowers team and does not micromanage
  • Creates an inclusive team environment, showing concern for success and well-being
  • Is a good communicator – listens and shares information
  • Is productive and results-oriented
  • Supports career development and discusses performance
  • Has a clear vision/strategy for the team

In 2017, Google Project Aristotle concluded that the best teams at Google exhibit a range of essential skills: equality, generosity, curiosity toward the ideas of your teammates, empathy, and emotional intelligence. And topping the list: emotional safety (i.e., no bullying). To succeed, each and every team member must feel confident speaking up and making mistakes. They must know they are being heard.

A survey from the nonprofit National Association of Colleges and Employers identified 20 skills employers seek on a resume and found over half fall into the essential skills category3

  • 78% ability to work on a team
  • 72% strong work ethic
  • 69% leadership
  • 66% initiative
  • 64% flexibility
  • 62% detail oriented
  • 48% organizational abilities
  • 26% friendly outgoing personality
  • 26% tactfulness
  • 20% risk taker

A 2015 ACT survey of 371 workforce supervisors revealed that they believe essential skills are, well, essential. The percentage for each skill reflect importance ratings:

  • 91% integrity
  • 89% work ethic
  • 88% cooperation
  • 88% resilience
  • 79% creativity
  • 63% leadership

Research provides substantial evidence concerning the role of essential skills for predicting workplace outcomes. Employers can feel confident putting emphasis on essential skills for human resource decisions.


ACT Introduces ACT Tessera Workforce

A Solution to Improve Workforce Readiness

ACT Tessera Workforce logo

Essential skills – also known as social and emotional learning (SEL), noncognitive, or soft skills – are important for workplace success. With that in mind, ACT introduces ACT Tessera Workforce.  

Research shows that these skills are as essential as foundational academic and technical skills for success in today’s workforce and are critical for career success and lifelong well-being. The new product is designed to help improve workforce readiness, and will be at the center of a new strategic partnership between ACT and the International Youth Foundation®. 

Utility Company Uses ACT WorkKeys to Inform Hiring Decisions

Carthage Water & Electric Plant set out to hire people who were ready to work on day one. Find out how they measure attributes such as management skills, work ethic, and safety awareness prior to hiring.

Hiring the right people for the right jobs is especially critical for small organizations with limited resources. Carthage Water & Electric Plant (CWEP) is a municipally-owned, locally-controlled, not-for-profit electric utility company responsible for operating and maintaining water, electric, and communications systems in Carthage, Missouri. With limited resources, it was expensive for CWEP to hire and retain employees with the right skills.  

CWEP administration turned to ACT® WorkKeys® solutions to gain greater insight and make more informed decisions regarding potential hires. Skills from the ACT® WorkKeys® National Career Readiness Certificate® (NCRC®), such as locating information and communicating clearly, are critical to job success for the utility company. Using the WorkKeys Talent assessment, CWEP is also able to evaluate applicants’ soft skills, such as management skills, work ethic, or safety awareness.

Research: Income Trends for ACT NCRC Earners 

Individuals often question the validity of an assessment they take. That’s why ACT Research investigates the trends between income and WorkKeys® National Career Readiness Certificate (NCRC®). A new study reinforces previous ACT findings that higher NCRC levels are correlated to higher income levels. 

Performing well on the WorkKeys® Assessments and earning a higher WorkKeys NCRC can help individuals secure higher incomes in the short- and long-term. With this information, individuals can be confident that the NCRC is a valuable credential.

What’s more, higher NCRC levels translate into higher increases in earning. In fact, adults with some postsecondary education earned approximately $8,000 more with a Silver NCRC as compared to a Bronze NCRC, and roughly $5,500 more with a Gold or Platinum NCRC as compared to a Silver. 

Foundational skills are vital to job performance, and the NCRC is a useful measure of the foundational skills needed for career advancement. Employers and workforce and economic developers alike can rely on the ACT WorkKeys assessment system to build a skilled workforce and boost the economic health of their community. The study compares NCRC achievement for all test takers in 2011 and tracks income levels for the five years after taking the assessment.

What We’re Reading: Hiring Trends for 2019, Battling Poverty With Soft Skills, and the LinkedIn Workforce Report

As we enter a new year, hiring trends will likely change due to several factors.

The predictions include an increased use of technology to streamline the interview process, recruiting through new channels such as social media, and upskilling and reskilling employees to stay competitive and more.

New Mexico’s largest city is focused on workforce development to overcome poverty. 

The state itself is one of the poorest in the nation, and they are assessing soft skills and hard skills to systematically approach career placement.

LinkedIn Workforce Report is out and here are the key takeaways:

  • Hiring in the US leveled off in the second half of 2018 after a long period of increased hiring.
  • Coastal workers are migrating to the middle. Austin, Denver, and Charlotte – the site of ACT Workforce Summit 2019 – are drawing the most workers.