Schools using test to indicate level of soft skills

HOUMA -- Are you struggling to hire entry-level employees who can show up on time and can be a trained?

The Terrebonne Parish School District is using a tool that can aid in reassuring you that the application of that high-school student or recent graduate you’re holding might be good fit for your company.

It’s the ACT WorkKeys National Career Readiness Certificate (NCRC) test, and it’s given to all students who are on Jump Start Career Pathway tracks, some upper level English students and is available to any student who scores a 21 or less on the ACT. Educators say that’s approximately 50 percent of the high-school population, and TPSD covers the cost for students.

Though WorkKeys testing students can earn certifications in Applied Math, Graphic Literacy and/or Workplace Documents on four levels – bronze, silver, gold and platinum. The credentials verify skills proficiency in

• problem solving

• critical thinking

• reading and using work-related text

• applying information from workplace documents and mathematical reasoning to solve problems

• locating, synthesizing and applying information presented graphically, and

• comparing, summarizing and analyzing information presented in multiple graphics.

For example, with a gold Applied Math certificate, students demonstrate their ability to solve problems using mathematical operations with mixed units, identify where a mistake occurred in calculations, calculate percentages and use it to determine a discount, markup or tax, convert between units of measurement, and other skills.

A gold Graphic Literacy certificate indicates students can locate information in a graphic using information found in another graphic, identify a trend/pattern/relationship and justify a decision based on information, among other skills.

Regarding Workplace Documents, a gold certificate indicates the ability to infer meanings of words or phrases from context, apply instructions to a new situation similar to the one described in a document while considering changing conditions and make inferences to accomplish a goal.

Why is this valuable to businesses? These areas indicate students’ strength in using mathematical reasoning and problem-solving techniques to solve work-related problems; graphs, charts, tables, floor plans and instrument gauges; and written text to do a job. The higher the score on the WorkKeys assessment (on a scale of 3 to 7), the greater the ability.

WorkKeys certificates are tools that can help employers better align their new hires’ skills with those needed for a job. That translates into a better-quality hire, shorter training times with greater knowledge retention, reduced turnover, increased performance ratings for skilled workers, improved employee morale and decreased operator error.

How do you know if an applicant has these certifications? Their school counselors have been recommending certifications be listed on resumes, added to job application forms and certificate copies offered to potential employers. Students have also been counseled to make their certificates publicly available so employers to verify them by entering a registration number online at

Want more information on WorkKeys certificates? Contact Katherine Gilbert-Theriot with Terrebonne Economic Development at 985-873-6890.