Oregon’s education and workforce partners sought to build a statewide college and career readiness program for adults and older youth as part of an integrated education and workforce delivery system. In 2007, with the support of the State Board of Education (SBE) and the Oregon Workforce Investment Board, the Department of Community Colleges and Workforce Development (CCWD) began exploring options for a career readiness credential in Oregon. The Implementation Committee, which was led by CCWD and included representation from other state agencies, educators, employers, and business groups, agreed that the credential should be aligned with Oregon’s Essential Skills, a set of foundational academic competencies required for high school graduation. Ultimately, the committee selected the National Career Readiness Certificate (NCRC), which was approved by the state legislature in 2009.
Oregon’s NCRC benefits from the support of workforce and economic development partners, industry groups, and more than 850 employers who use the NCRC to improve hiring and training practices. Currently, Oregon is one of seven states participating in the Certified Work Ready Communities (CWRC) initiative, sponsored by ACT, Inc., that uses the NCRC to measure skills and collect data to target statewide workforce development efforts. Both the NCRC and CWRC are tied to the governor’s 10-Year Plan for Oregon, a policy effort designed to connect state resources with public outcomes. Since the legislation passed in 2009, at least 19,000 adults and older youth in Oregon have earned the NCRC.
Local education and workforce programs use a variety of approaches to teach the skills necessary for participants to earn the certificate. For example, some community colleges in Oregon offer the NCRC as part of the Oregon Pathways for Adult Basic Skills (OPABS) initiative, the state’s contextualized adult career pathways program that follows a statewide standardized curriculum and is supplemented with local resources and materials. At Mt. Hood Community College, adult education students enrolled in the two-term career pathway bridge program receive contextualized basic and employability skills instruction in high-growth, high-demand industries, including health services, industrial and engineering systems, and business and management. In addition, career coaches from the local WorkSource Oregon center (Oregon’s coordinated workforce service centers) attend class regularly to provide information about the NCRC assessments and other career-related resources. Toward the end of the second term, students take the GED as well as the NCRC in preparation to transition to college or employment. For some participants, earning the NCRC may occur before finishing the GED and provides meaningful documentation of the skills gained through the bridge program and signals to employers that they are work ready.
At Lane Community College, participants enrolling in the two-term training to become a Certified Nursing Assistant 1 (CNA1) program must take an employability skills appraisal test and commit to program activities outlined by a career advisor among other career-related prerequisites. The one-term Bridge to CNA1 course provides contextualized basic skills instruction in reading comprehension, career-related math, and writing. By the end of the bridge course, students take the NCRC with the goal of scoring a 3 or higher to advance to the CNA1 course, which prepares students to take the Oregon State Board of Nursing certification exam for nursing assistants.
WorkSource Oregon Centers
At local WorkSource Oregon centers, individuals take an employability skills appraisal to determine their readiness to pass the NCRC. Center staff provide career counseling and resources for low skill individuals on how to improve their employability skills and prepare for the NCRC. For example, participants receive access to the Worldwide Interactive Network’s (WIN) Career Readiness Courseware, an online self-paced curriculum to prepare for the NCRC.
10-Year Plan for Oregon website. http://www.oregon.gov/COO/TEN/index.shtml.
Oregon Department of Education. Essential Skills. http://www.ode.state.or.us/search/page/?id=1670.
Oregon State Board of Education. (2011, October). National Career Readiness Certificate / OAR 589-007-0700. Oregon State Board of Education Docket. Retrieved August 22, 2011, from http://www.odccwd.state.or.us/studentsuccess/edocs/SBE%20Board%20Docket%20-%20October%202011.pdf (PDF, 294 KB).
Oregon State Board of Education. (2008, October). Oregon Career Readiness Certificate. Oregon State Board of Education Docket. Retrieved August 22, 2011, from http://www.odccwd.state.or.us/studentsuccess/SSdocs.aspx?p=3&h=21 .
Oregon State Board of Education. (2009, December). Oregon Career Readiness Certificate / OAR 589-007-0700. Oregon State Board of Education Docket. Retrieved August 22, 2011, from http://www.odccwd.state.or.us/studentsuccess/SSdocs.aspx?p=3&h=21 .
Oregon Department of Community Colleges and Workforce Development. Oregon’s National Career Readiness Certificate website. http://www.oregonncrc.org/.
Evelyn Roth (Oregon National Career Readiness Certificate Coordinator), Oregon Department of Community Colleges and Workforce Development, personal conversation with author, August 21, 2012.
Marc Goldberg (Dean of Instruction), Mt. Hood Community College, personal conversation with author, August 21, 2012.
Phyllis Nissila (Instructor) and Lynn Nakamura (Grants Implementation Manager), Lane Community College, personal conversation with author, August 22, 2012.
ACT, Inc. Work Ready Communities website. http://workreadycommunities.org/.