Originally created 09/13/03

Grading helps hiring decisions



Want to know what it takes to run a forklift or put together parts at a factory?

Club Car did.

So the maker of golf cars and utility vehicles became the first local company to use a standardized grading system designed by ACT Inc., the nonprofit that puts out standardized college entrance exams, to identify and profile the skills necessary for such jobs.

Businesses benefit by embracing ACT's WorkKeys system because they can make more informed hiring decisions, said Linda Sliger, who heads the CSRA School to Work Partnership, the federally funded group responsible for running the program in the area.

A group of Ms. Sliger's job profilers spend a day with a company and evaluate a position. In the case of Club Car, they monitored professional forklift operators and determined that someone appropriate for the job would need to score a minimum level in three areas: reading for information, observation and teamwork.

Passing scores differ from test to test and company to company. Applicants for an open position at a company using WorkKeys can take the test at Augusta Technical College, where an assessment center has been set up.

"It's certainly not the only tool we use when we look at candidates," said Judy Beltz, a spokeswoman for Club Car, which also used WorkKeys to pinpoint the skills necessary for an assembler of its utility vehicles. "But skills aren't always hands-on stuff, and this gives us a better perspective."

Club Car is planning to use the system again, Ms. Beltz said.

Walton Rehabilitation Hospital used the program for the first time this week when it invited profilers to meet with its registered nurses and certified nursing assistants.

High school students wondering about the real-world relevance of what they learn in the classroom could find the answers with WorkKeys when the system is introduced to area schools this fall.

After it is fully rolled out, students in five Georgia counties - Richmond, Columbia, Burke, Lincoln and McDuffie - will be tested and graded in nine workplace skills, such as business writing and applied technology.

"Students are always asking why they need to know this or that and how it applies to real life," Ms. Sliger said. "Now, teachers can show them how."

A graduate who is better prepared for the working world also makes Augusta a more attractive place for businesses to recruit skilled talent, she said.

People interested in a particular job can check to see whether their skill levels meet the minimum standard a participating company requires for a position.

"A grade can be built upon at any time, so it's possible to study and enhance one's score," said Will Valet, a spokesman for Iowa City, Iowa-based ACT, which has profiled more than 9,000 white- and blue-collar jobs nationwide in the past 11 years.

Other WorkKeys sites in Georgia include Albany and Athens. In South Carolina, Aiken Technical College is one of the sites offering the program.

Reach Matthew Mogul at (706) 823-3352 or matthew.mogul@augustachronicle.com.