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    Indiana County Chamber of Commerce and Indiana County School Districts Launch Indiana County Ready!

    Indiana County READY™ represents a community response to local workforce needs, better matching Indiana County employers with employees who possess the desired core skills and competencies needed to fuel a 21st century workforce.

    As it is nationwide, the workforce skills gap is a concern for Indiana County employers. After meeting with numerous businesses across industry sectors, the Indiana County Chamber of Commerce found that core skills and technical skills were often cited as lacking in the local workforce.

    "The Chamber was resolved to respond to the workforce needs of employers here, to find ways in which the community could begin to address the issue," said Chamber President Mark Hilliard.

    Hilliard said buy-in and support from the county's educational institutions was essential to the success of the initiative. After spending several months discussing, the scope of the initiative with education leaders including Superintendents and Guidance Counselors, the group formally launched Indiana County READY™.  

    Indiana Area School District Superintendent Michael Vuckovich stated that in implementing Indiana County READY™, the educational institutions pledge to provide 21st century workforce skills experiences, focusing on six specific core attributes.

    "While technical skills help you land a job, it's your soft skills that make the difference," Vuckovich said. "We are preparing students to live and thrive in a constantly changing environment and as a community, we need to prepare students with the skills that are needed today and beyond. I am honored and proud to be a part of such a wonderful event and I am confident that this regional approach to workforce development will be a huge success for our students, our schools, Indiana County, and the entire Commonwealth."

    Jim Kinneer, Chief Human Resource Officer at Indiana Regional Medical Center stressed Indiana County READY™ recognizes that now more than ever employers are desperate for job candidates who consistently demonstrate the six core attributes that the program addresses.

    "Indiana County READY™ offers a solution to help local educators and businesses to close the soft skills gap through an effective partnership and can serve as a catalyst for further workforce development efforts," Kinneer said.

    For students who sign up for Indiana County READY™, earning the designation will be akin to earning the local business community's seal of approval. When Indiana County employers see the Indiana County READY™ designation on job applications or resumes, they will know that the applicant possesses an understanding of and proficiency in the core attributes that businesses find essential in employees.

    To that end, Hilliard said promoting the value and purpose of Indiana County READY™ certification, as well as the individuals achieving the designation, is a priority for the Chamber and community partners. The response to date has been overwhelmingly positive.

    "Local businesses have embraced the concept of Indiana County READY™," Hilliard said. "The concern over having the workforce needed to grow and expand, and to remain competitive, is top of mind for many employers. They are receptive to efforts to address workforce readiness and close the skills gap because it ultimately matters to their bottom line."

    Indiana County READY™ is a voluntary program that students who are junior and seniors in any of the Indiana County School districts can enroll in near the beginning of the school year. The program will assess students over the course of the entire year on the categories of reliability, work ethic, communication, respect, professionalism, and attendance.

    Hilliard said that there will be assemblies for these students where the Chamber and members of the business community will discuss the program and the importance of the core skills that it assesses.

    "We are hoping that through all of the planned promotion all students, whether they are enrolled in the program or not, will be exposed to the importance of these core skills and why they are essential for them to be a productive member of the workforce, regardless of the industry they choose to be in," Hilliard explained.

    The Chamber of Commerce and its education and community partners say with a focus on core skills, the Indiana County READY™ program is an important, but only a first step in the process of building a 21st century workforce.

    The Indiana County READY™ program was created through an affiliation with the Chamber of Business and Industry in Centre County.

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