SD career-readiness program has open spots
By Bob Mercer
PIERRE -- Gov. Dennis Daugaard and the Legislature believed so much that career readiness certificates should become part of South Dakota's culture that they offered 4,000 free slots to school districts for a trial run in their high schools this academic year.
So far, 25 districts, representing 1,494 juniors and seniors, have applied to participate in the assessment program, according to Barb Unruh, who oversees career readiness and GED programs for the state Department of Labor.
That's a savings of $150 per student taking the assessment, which has gold, silver and bronze levels of performance and is known as the ACT National Career Readiness Certificate.
Next school year, career readiness will become part of the state Education Department's performance-rating system that generates scores for all public schools.
Unruh presented information about the career-readiness certificate program Monday to members of the state's Workforce Development Council. The council gave its endorsement to the certificate approach more than five years ago.
Eight female inmates at the state's women prison at Pierre recently took the career-readiness assessments. While the tests normally are done on computers with Internet access, the prisoners don't have those privileges, so Unruh delivered the tests using paper and pencil.
Earlier this month, two members of the governor's cabinet, Education Secretary Melody Schopp and Labor Secretary Pam Roberts, sent a joint letter to school districts telling them about the availability of the 4,000 free slots.
Schools must provide space and one computer per student. The assessments have three pieces --applied mathematics, reading for information and locating information -- and students get 55 minutes to complete each of the three.
"We're building it into our accountability system," Schopp, who serves on the workforce council, said Monday.
Two of the workforce council's members, Tom Bohnet of Yankton and Dave Giovannini of Aberdeen, use the career-readiness assessments for their businesses, according to Bill Molseed, the Labor Department's workforce training administrator.
While Bohnet and Giovannini weren't able to take part in the meeting Monday, Molseed said certification is taking root.
"Employers are using this," Molseed told council members. "It's bearing fruit."