ACT Workforce Newsletter

Welcome to the ACT Workforce Newsletter!



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Upcoming Events

ACT Workforce Summit

October 8-10, 2018 | Hyatt Regency | New Orleans, Louisiana

SAVE THE DATE! Great music, food, and atmosphere meet great discussion, networking, and sharing in New Orleans this fall! The Big Easy will be the setting of the 2018 ACT Workforce Summit, a chance for professionals to learn about and share best practices in building a skilled, productive workforce.

The summit is a great opportunity to hear success stories from workforce and economic developers, educators, trainers, employers, and other workforce stakeholders. Last year’s summit drew more than 300 attendees and featured speakers including government leaders, forward-thinking entrepreneurs, and the subject of an HBO documentary. Attendees can also sign up for evening activities as a chance to experience New Orleans. 

“At the 2017 summit, people were taking notes, recommending resources, exchanging cards, and asking one another tough questions,” said Jane Oates of Working Nation and former US Assistant Secretary at the US Department of Labor. “It was such an amazing, energizing work environment.” 

We hope to see you in New Orleans this October!

Product Spotlight

The Updated WorkKeys System – What It Means for You

Ease of use. Meaningful insights. Actionable results. Better security. A sharper reflection of today’s work skills.

There are many reasons why ACT started updating its suite of workforce products last year, completing the changeover in April. Using customer and stakeholder feedback, ACT made every update with your learners and clients in mind. The result is a skill assessment and certification system that has even greater relevance for the skills needed in 21st-century careers.

The new features include:  

For Your Users

  • ACT WorkKeys® Assessments have updated test item content to better match workforce skills
  • Assessments are now available in Spanish
  • Practice tests are online and free
  • Updated WorkKeys Curriculum courses
  • Paper and PDF (self-printable and sharable) versions of the ACT WorkKeys National Career Readiness Certificate®

For You

  • The new test-delivery platform offers greater usability, reliability, and accessibility including a magnifying tool, calculator, color scheme, and answer eliminator, along with improved test security and data privacy controls
  • Faster and simpler electronic sign process, valid for three years
  • A new portal for ordering materials and scoring
  • Updated job profile database


Video: Update on Revised ACT WorkKeys NCRC Assessments

Learn from ACT product and research experts to hear about certificate and assessment scoring data trends as well as updates on new features and functionality.



Articles and Reports

Connecting Employers to Candidates: Beta Test Subjects Needed

Finding qualified candidates with the skills employers need can be a time-consuming task. That’s why ACT wants to change how employers identify candidates by creating a system that connects them via an online skills credentialing network. And we need you to help us perfect it.

Your organization can be among the first to try out the ACT Workforce Skills Exchange – a system that helps businesses find prequalified, highly-skilled job candidates who have taken ACT WorkKeys Assessments and earned an ACT WorkKeys National Career Readiness Certificate. The system allows employers to build job profiles for open positions, post those positions, and connect with and hire candidates whose skills match the position.

ACT is looking for employers, labor boards, and economic development groups to participate in the beta study starting in June. If your organization is interested, let us know by signing up below.

Value of Career Credentials Continues to Grow

Whether the national economy is booming or busting, smart hiring decisions may determine whether an organization thrives or perishes. More businesses are turning to industry-recognized skills credentials in hiring because they reflect whether an applicant has the foundational skills needed for most jobs—skills that affect productivity, trainability, and overall fit between the person and the job.

In her recent contribution to the ACT Leadership Blog, Chief Commercial Officer Suzana Delanghe points out that these credentials come in many forms: degrees, certificates, industry certifications, licenses, apprenticeships, and badges. “The goal is to validate the knowledge and skills of prospective employees and save valuable time in the recruitment process,” she writes.

But Delanghe points out that individuals benefit, too. “Job candidates can distinguish themselves with industry-recognized credentials. They may gain a leg up in the competitive applicant pool or leverage quality credentials as a tool for career advancement.”

Because the world of credentials is growing and the credentials themselves are crossing industries, it’s important to keep them coherent to their many audiences. That’s one reason ACT worked with the Lumina Foundation on a tool to connect and define credentials for education and training providers.

ACT helped field test the Lumina Connecting Credentials Framework, comparing the ACT WorkKeys National Career Readiness Certificate to the Framework. “This enables the competencies that NCRC validates as an entry-level credential to be compared with programs and credentials that are also aligned with the Framework,” Delanghe writes.

Delanghe says credentials will help the US economy remain competitive while helping educators close skills gaps among emerging workers.

Read Suzana Delanghe's blog on the importance of credentials >
Read more about ACT and the Connecting Credentials Framework >


Suzana Delanghe
ACT Chief Commercial Officer

Google Careers Focus on Social and Emotional Learning Skills 

Ten years ago, an internal research team at Google set out to identify the common characteristics and skills of their most successful managers. The results were surprising—soft skills are more important than key technical skills. In fact, the top seven qualities of success at Google are soft skills:

  1. Being a good coach
  2. Empowering team members
  3. Creating an inclusive team environment, showing concern for success and well-being
  4. Being productive and results oriented
  5. Being a good communicator
  6. Supporting career development and discussing performance
  7. Having a clear vision/strategy for the team
  8. Having key technical skills to help advise the team 

By sharing the findings across the company and training managers on these behaviors, Google has seen improvement in team outcomes like turnover, job satisfaction, and performance over time. With the success of this project, Google applied a similar research method to determine the key characteristics and skills of effective teams. They discovered that the qualities that impact team effectiveness are nearly the same as those that make a good manager, including confidence, curiosity, and reliability.

Google’s successful management and team qualities closely align to the social and emotional learning (SEL) skills that are increasingly being taught and measured in US schools. For emerging workers across the country, this means a greater emphasis on SEL skills could have a long-term impact on career readiness and success.

Do you focus on SEL skills when you hire or train? We’d love to hear from you (and might use your example in a future Workforce Newsletter). Send us an email at with the subject line “Workforce Newsletter – SEL.”

High Employment Rates and Earnings for CTE Students

Community college students who earn career and technical education (CTE) awards tend to experience lower unemployment rates and higher earnings. This is one finding of a report by the Iowa Department of Education and Iowa Workforce Development, which followed several groups of community college students into further higher education and the workforce to measure outcomes.

The report, which followed 89,880 students who completed short- and long-term awards between academic years 2012 and 2016, had several key findings:

  • 85.7 percent who directly entered the workforce were employed within the first year of completing their programs.
  • Those who earned associate of applied science degrees in high-need career and technical education fields in 2016 had higher rates of employment compared to all other degrees and certificates, and aggregate median wages ($36,101) are above the state’s 2016 per capita income of $30,047.
  • Those who earned transfer-oriented associate of arts degrees in 2016 continued into further postsecondary education at high rates (73 percent); conversely, those who did not transfer into four-year programs experienced relatively weak labor market outcomes.
  • Among those who graduated in 2016, the highest earnings in the first year after program completion were by students who earned associate of applied science degrees and were employed in health care and social assistance ($43,108), followed by manufacturing ($41,489).
  • A strong majority of those completing programs remained in the state (83.6 percent) after graduation. 

The WorkKeys system (including the WorkKeys Curriculum and National Career Readiness Certificate) is a key component of CTE programs in Iowa and throughout the country. Colleges use the system to track student progress and equip students with the skills employers expect when hiring. 

Read the full report on community colleges' CTE program outcomes >

How Colleges and Employers Can Help Working Learners

Adult professionals strive for work-life balance because it boosts productivity and career satisfaction. Working college students (“working learners”) need a similar balance between their workplace and the classroom. Their employers and their learning institutions can help them achieve that balance.

This is a key finding of a recent study by ACT’s Center for Equity in Learning, which finds that college students who work more than 15 hours a week tend to fall behind in academic progress while adding to their debt.

Businesses that employ working students can help them find this balance. Employers can schedule students’ time on the job around midterms, finals, and projects while giving them fair wages. Meanwhile, government can expand funding and access to work-study programs. Christina Gordon, Senior Director of the ACT Center for Equity in Learning, spells out recommendations for business and government leaders in helping working learners in an op-ed for the Committee for Economic Development.

“Beyond corporate social responsibility, it’s in every company’s best interest to be aware of and support the working learners on the job right now,” Gordon writes. “They are eager to embrace the American dream and make it their own.”

Best Practices

How Career Readiness Credentials Help Communities

Many groups shape a skilled workforce – educators, employers, learners, policymakers, workforce and economic developers. They share a common vision but can’t always communicate their needs. Having a common language based on what powers a strong economy – job skills – makes it possible for all parties to communicate.

Career readiness credentials are seeing wide adoption in communities because they are:

  • Applicable to any job or industry
  • Portable between states and regions or anywhere in the country
  • Are tied to the skills needed in virtually any job

… and they can help:

  • People (students and adults) looking to improve their skills
  • Businesses looking to hire skilled employees
  • Communities looking to employ residents and attract businesses

Credentials (like the ACT WorkKeys National Career Readiness Certificate) bring all parties to the table.

Professional Development

Webinar: Skills and Credentials Attainment Improve the Workforce

Watch this video to learn:

  • How to determine if an individual is “career ready”
  • How to determine if an individual possesses the right skills for the job
  • How to leverage WorkKeys solutions for training success. 
  • Best practices for skill development

Also discover a best practice on Reskilling the Workforce for Emerging Jobs


Ask an ACT Expert

How Do ACT Work Ready Communities Help with Economic Development?