Employability Skills Framework

Kentucky's National Career Readiness Certificate

To prove their readiness for work, prospective employees in Kentucky can earn a state-approved employability certificate signed by both the governor and the president of the state chamber of commerce. While Kentucky was one of the first states to adopt such a credential, state administrators recognized the need for the credential to offer portability to recipients, both in having value to a variety of employers and in ensuring consistency from state to state. Therefore, after offering the Kentucky Employability Certificate since 2003, the state shifted to the Kentucky National Career Readiness Certificate (KY NCRC) in 2011.

Statewide Support for Certification

To meet the skill demands of businesses and industries in the state, Kentucky offers the two highest (out of three) levels of certification to individuals who demonstrate skill proficiency at established performance levels in applied mathematics, reading for information, and locating information on the WorkKeys assessments. Partnerships among various state agencies, including the Department of Workforce Investment and Kentucky Adult Education (KYAE), support the KY NCRC. Doing so ensures that education and training are closely linked with employers’ needs and maintains the state’s rigorous focus on readiness for college and career.

Curriculum and Instruction: SKILL UP Kentucky

One example of how employability skills are being integrated into adult education programs in Kentucky is the SKILL UP KY program, which provides contextualized basic and employability skills instruction. SKILL UP incorporates soft skills, such as leadership and responsibility, communication, and flexibility and adaptability, and 21st century skills, such as problem solving, critical thinking, and collaboration. Students work individually and in small groups to complete a series of integrated learning activities that culminate in a capstone project.

KYAE plans to roll out a modified SKILL UP version of the original SKILL UP Kentucky program. The program will continue to offer contextualized instruction that incorporates 21st century skills and allow students to pursue stackable credentials, including a proposed Workforce Readiness Certificate, which will target employability skills and other skills needed to earn the NCRC and GED. While the original SKILL UP KY program delivered both adult education and occupational/technical training in tandem, the modified program is intended for adult education programs that may not be in proximity of or affiliated with an institution that offers technical/occupational skills training, with the goal of preparing participants to pursue further education leading to family wage employment.

For more information, visit the Kentucky Employability Certificate website.


Kentucky Adult Education. (n.d.). Skill Up Kentucky Brochure.
ACT. (2011, spring). Kentucky Serves as a Model in Statewide Adoption of the National Career Readiness Certificate. ACT’s Activity Publication, 49(2).

Reecie Stagnolia (Vice President, Kentucky Adult Education, Council on Postsecondary Education), personal conversation with the author, February 23, 2012.

Laurie Henry (Director, Skill Up Kentucky), personal conversation with the author, August 2012.