The Ottumwa Courier

May 10, 2013

Job Corps trainee earns tops scores on National Career Readiness test

Courier staff writer

---- — OTTUMWA — Adult job candidates have tried. Students from Indian Hills Community College have tried. Even various college instructors have tried. But it took an 18-year-old Job Corps trainee to get the highest score ever seen at the Ottumwa Iowa Workforce Development center on the National Career Readiness test.

The test is sort of like the ACTs for grownups. In fact, ACT developed the test, which looks at how well a job seeker can do in the three subjects employers are interested in: applied mathematics, reading and searching for information.

"When job seekers come in, we give them a KeyTrain account," said Linda Rouse, regional manager of IowaWorks.

That allows test takers to study first. It's worth it, she said. Those who pass the test get a certificate, the NCRC, which is accepted by 5,000 employers in Iowa. Rouse said certification lets those in charge of hiring know right away if an applicant has certain abilities.

"It has communication skills, interviewing skills, business writing. There's also the main [categories] of applied mathematics, reading and locating information. They can train and then take the test," she said.

They actually take three tests, one in each category. Pass one of them, and you get a bronze "score." Pass all and you end up with the bronze "certificate." But you can also get a silver or gold. It's not an easy test, and it takes work to get the certificate. Of the three sections, the certificate is awarded based on your lowest score. Get a silver, one gold and a bronze, and your certificate is a bronze.

Kyle VanDenBerg of Dyersville said his father took the test and he received a gold certificate. That meant the lowest of three scores was a gold. Kyle found out that there was one score higher than gold: platinum. Unfortunately, no one in Ottumwa or the surrounding communities ever earned a platinum certificate.

Some had gotten a platinum on a "section," like reading or math. But to get platinum, Kyle would have get the highest scores in all three categories. He hit the books.

"When my father took it, he got gold, gold and platinum. So I figured I had to beat him. My father beat me on the ACTs, so this was my chance," Kyle said.

Among family members, he said, he's very competitive. Others who want to do really well will take the test over and over. Some will just take the test they got the lowest score on. Still, no one had platinum. Kyle nailed it on his first try.

"I didn't do so well in high school," Kyle said. "It was just stuff I wasn't interested in. I'm more of a hands-on guy. I love school for what I'm going for now, diesel power, and I love learning stuff like that."

As for the platinum certificate, he said, it'll look great on a resume.

That's a good point, Rouse said,

"Anybody who achieves that platinum? They are considered by employers to have the skills necessary to pursue 99 percent of the employment opportunities in the workforce."

Kyle says between working hard in class on repair skills, plus the skills the certificate proves, will help him show an employer he can be a valuable employee.

"Diesel engines make the world go 'round," Kyle said. "The good mechanics are the ones who get the job done right the first time. You get a diesel truck sitting on the side of the road, it's costing a company money."

"It’s another tool in the toolbox to help you get a job," Rouse said about the certificate. "Because if there are two applicants who are equal, and I interview them and they’re still equal, then the one who has [successfully completed] the NCRC may be set [apart].”

The test, the certificate and the study program are free, Rouse said, if you are an Iowa resident. Hundreds of southeast Iowa residents have taken it so far this year. Testing is done on Wednesdays and Fridays at IowaWorks, the building on Truman Avenue near the Ottumwa Regional Airport.

Of course, Kyle already told his dad.

"He said he had to go take that test again," Kyle said.

And that's just what he did. So did Dad get platinum this time?

"Not quite," Kyle answered.

To see reporter Mark Newman's Twitter feed, go to @couriermark