Career center adds work ethic certificate

When local companies look to hire new employees, finding a candidate who has the basic skills as a worker — let alone the special training needed for the job — has been a challenge.

Employers want workers who will show up on time, everyday, and be invested in their job and their company. The struggle to recruit good workers has been brought up in discussions with the county’s top business recruiting agency, the Johnson County Development Corp., manager of community development initiatives Dana Monson said.

“These are the kinds of skills that work across sectors,” she said.

“These are the kind of skills everyone needs to be successful.”

With that goal in mind, Aspire Johnson County, a Johnson County Development Corp. initiative focused on bettering the county, began working on a plan to create a local work ethic certification program for students. Students who earn the certificate will have proven they have the skills needed to be a good worker, and that could give them a boost in the list of applicants for local employers, Monson said.

An 18-month, $40,000 state grant will allow the Central Nine Career Center to implement the new certificate program first, and then spread it to the nine school districts who send students to the career center, which includes five of the six local school districts, said Bea Northcott, the project implementation specialist.

Local school officials and business leaders have begun meeting to set the requirements for the certificate, and also discuss whether local companies will be willing to give students who earn the certificate priority over other applicants, Northcott said. The state will need to approve the local plan before the new program can begin. Officials want to start the certificate program next school year at Central Nine, she said.

The certificate will require students to show skills workers need, such as integrity, motivation, professionalism, adaptability, communication and teamwork, along with meeting academic requirements, including a minimum 2.0 GPA, a 98 percent attendance rate, six hours of community service and being involved in no more than one disciplinary issue at school, Northcott said. Those are the state requirements; and local officials could require more, if they choose, she said.

The schools will decide if students have met those standards in order to earn the certificate, she said.

In addition to setting the standards for the certificate, the group also needs to let local employers know about it so they can watch for those applicants, Northcott said.

“If we can tell them, yes these students have these skills, it’s going to be good for the businesses,” Northcott said.

Employers have told the Johnson County Development Corp. that they struggle to find employees who meet those basic standards at times. So being able to show that these students do have those skills, and getting employers to give them priority, will help both businesses and students, Monson said.

“Employers will know the student has made the extra effort. That helps them with vetting new employees,” Monson said.

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Annie Goeller is managing editor of the Daily Journal. She can be reached at or 317-736-2718.