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The WorkKeys job skill assessment system was created in the late 1980s by ACT, Inc.—the nonprofit company responsible for the ACT test. Businesses use WorkKeys to measure workplace skills of employees and job applicants. Schools and colleges also use WorkKeys to prepare students for the workplace.
Some WorkKeys exams are also available in the United States in English, Spanish, and Braille. The tests are also used overseas in a product branded as “English WorkKeys” to help people who speak Spanish, Italian, and French as their primary language develop English proficiency.
WorkKeys consists of three elements:
- Job skill assessments, which are designed to measure foundational and personal skills as they apply to the workplace
- Job analysis, which pinpoints or estimates skill benchmarks for specific job positions that individuals must meet through testing
- Skill training, which helps individuals boost their scores
Skill assessments Edit
WorkKeys consists of twelve workplace skill assessments:
- Applied Mathematics – applying mathematical reasoning to work-related problems
- Applied Technology – understanding technical principles as they apply to the workplace
- Business Writing – composing clear, well-developed messages relating to on-the-job situations
- Listening – being able to listen to and understand work-related messages
- Locating Information – using information from such materials as diagrams, floor plans, tables, forms, graphs, and charts
- Observation – paying attention to details in workplace instructions and demonstrations
- Reading for Information – comprehending work-related reading materials, from memos and bulletins to policy manuals and governmental regulations
- Teamwork – choosing behavior that furthers workplace relationships and accomplishes work tasks
- Writing – creating effective written work-related messages and summaries
- Performance – a person’s tendency toward unsafe work behaviors and attitudes toward work
- Talent – a person’s dependability, assertiveness, and emotional stability
- Fit – how a person’s interests and values correspond to a chosen career
Job analysis Edit
The job analysis component of WorkKeys helps to set benchmarks that correspond with WorkKeys scores, giving the examinee a target score to hit in order to qualify for a job.
Employers use job analysis to determine which skills are required for a job, and the level of each skill needed to perform the job successfully. This helps employees determine the standards for how an applicant must score in a particular WorkKeys skill assessment in order to be qualified for the job.
The job analysis element validates the use of WorkKeys foundational skills assessments for hiring, complying with legal standards set by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
In the job profiling process, ACT-licensed profilers visit with the client company or organization and determine background information on the job to be profiled and how specifically the job relates to the company. The profiler tours the company and collects materials – such as training manuals, annual reports, company newsletters – that define the company.
The profiler then compiles an initial list of the tasks most relevant to the job being profiled. Subject matter experts – those who know the job best through incumbency or supervising the job – refine the list and rate each task based on two factors: importance of the task to the job and relative time spent on it. The subject matter experts then decide what minimum level of each skill is required to perform the job successfully.
When taking a WorkKeys test, the skill level at which an employee scores corresponds to how prepared he or she is for the job, or how much remedial training an incumbent employee needs.
WorkKeys also offers two job analysis products that can be used without the help of a job profiler:
- SkillMap, an online service which links job tasks to the skill levels of WorkKeys assessments, used primarily to identify employees’ training needs
- WorkKeys Estimator, a paper-and-pencil system which gives quick estimates of the WorkKeys skill levels needed for a job
Skill training Edit
The WorkKeys system also includes computer-based and classroom-based training for individuals that corresponds with WorkKeys exams. There are curricula available for every skill level of each WorkKeys foundational skill exam.
National Career Readiness System Edit
WorkKeys exams are the foundation of the National Career Readiness System – a job skills credentialing system.
People can earn a National Career Readiness Certificates by taking three WorkKeys exams: Applied Mathematics, Locating Information, and Reading for Information exams. They are awarded certificates of Gold, Silver, and Bronze levels, depending on their test scores.
The higher the skill levels, the more jobs for which the applicant qualifies.
Statewide and community adoptions Edit
Several states, communities, and cities have adopted WorkKeys as part of their economic development or educational initiatives. For example, the Louisa-Muscatine School District uses WorkKeys as part of a School-to-Work initiative.
To give students an assessment of the skills they'll need for the workplace and college, two states are making WorkKeys exams part of graduation requirements for all high schoolers in the state. Starting in 2001, two WorkKeys tests – Applied Mathematics and Reading for Information – became part of the Prairie State Achievement Examination for all 11th graders in Illinois, along with the ACT test.
In 2007, the Michigan Department of Education made the WorkKeys Reading for Information and Applied Mathematics exams a part of its Michigan Merit Exam, a mandatory exam for 11th graders that also includes the ACT test.
Many states use WorkKeys for economic development initiatives, to prove to businesses looking to relocate that residents possess high job skills. These state initiatives include skill credentialing programs that are affiliated with the National Career Readiness Certificate.