The CRC Handbook, Second Edition
Implementing the Career Readiness Certificate




History of the CRC

Chapter 1: The Common Language

Chapter 2: CRC Assessments

Chapter 3: CRC "Champions"

Chapter 4: Getting Support from Employers & Others

Chapter 5: CRC Operations & Logistics

Chapter 6: CRC Funding

Chapter 7: Marketing the CRC

Chapter 8: CRC Data Collection

Chapter 9: CRC and Economic Development

Chapter 10: CRC Certificate Design

Chapter 11: The CRC+

Chapter 12: Return on Investment

Appendix A: FAQs

Appendix B: Marketing Materials

Appendix C: Web Connections

Appendix D: Suggested Readings

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Grateful thanks to: ACT™, Inc. for allowing reproduction of information from the ACT web site; Greg Bolin of ZAP! Multimedia for technical and graphic design assistance; and my many colleagues in the CRC Consortium who have willingly shared CRC information, data, marketing and other materials.

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Across the country, globalization has forced the quality of the American workforce to the top of the list of economic success indicators. The issue is so great that many national economic development experts believe that it is only the quality of our workforce and the American ability to innovate that will save the US from slipping further from its position of pre-eminence on the world stage.

The United States’ education system is often accused of not adequately preparing young people for the careers of today and tomorrow. The reality is that it is very difficult to prepare individuals for careers that may not yet have been defined or for current careers that are constantly changing.

One myth that has been perpetuated for many years is that employers want the publicly-funded educational and workforce development system to deliver to them fully-trained employees. The reality is that, because the skills requirements for many careers change rapidly and frequently, and because employers are prepared to accept the responsibility of training employees on the job (see below), it is more necessary to prepare customers of these systems to be TRAINABLE for any job.

It is now generally accepted that it has become necessary to have a credential that is easily understood across all careers and employment sectors, that is affordable, efficient and effective, and that documents and certifies trainability-skills levels.

The Career Readiness Certificate (CRC) was developed as this credential, based on a common language (WorkKeys® assessments) that is understood and valued across the country.

The CRC was also designed to form the basis for other industry-specific skills credentials, and I am pleased that the CRC+ is now being developed in several states (Chapter 11).

In January 2004, with leadership from Virginia, seven states (TN, WV, KY, DC, MD, NC and VA) formed the Career Readiness Certificate Consortium (CRCC) to support the following premises:

• There is a need for a portable skills credential based on a common language, easily understood by employers, educators, and citizens.
• This common language should be WorkKeys assessments and scores.
• The three WorkKeys assessments that should form the basis of the credential are Applied Mathematics, Locating Information, and Reading For Information.
• The credential should be multi-level.
• The scores for each level should be 3's for Bronze, 4's for Silver, and 5's for Gold.

The CRCC has now grown to include more than 45 states, and the CRC is rapidly assuming prominence as a valued complementary credential to high school diplomas and post-secondary credentials of all kinds. Current information on the Consortium is available at

The Consortium is now supported by the non-profit National Organization for Career Credentialing (NOCC), As the President of the NOCC, I am available for consultation and presentations on any aspect of CRC development and deployment.

This book is intended to assist those who are thinking about creating a CRC, who are just embarking on deployment of the CRC, and those who are already in the deployment process. The information is based on my personal experiences in Texas (1993-1997), Michigan (1999-2002), in Virginia between 2003 and 2005, and on information that has been shared with me in other states since 2005.

I have donated this manuscript (© Bolin Enterprises 2008) to the NOCC. Reproduction of part or all of the manuscript is subject to approval by the NOCC. The book is intended for appropriate use by anyone who is interested in the history and deployment of the Career Readiness Certificate.

This is the second edition of The Career Readiness Certificate: An Implementation Handbook, and I hope that I have addressed and included all suggestions that were made after the first edition was released. My thanks to those who took the time to make those suggestions. I welcome your comments for additional inclusions in the handbook.

Barbara Bolin, Ph.D.
Bolin Enterprises, LLC
Lansing, Michigan

History of the CRC
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The concept of a Career Readiness Certificate (CRC) first developed in my mind in 1995 when I was working for Dell Computer Corporation in Austin, TX.

In the mid-90s, many private sector representatives were complaining loudly and often about the quality of high school and college graduates who they were interviewing as potential employees. The complaints stemmed from the applicants having insufficient skills in the basic applied academic areas, and in soft skills. The employers were also complaining that too many new employees were not successful in training classes or on the job.

Although Dell’s automated processes did not require the same skill sets that other employers were demanding, I was personally involved in trying to reduce the very high attrition rate among Dell telephone support operators. Dell was also interested in improving the communication and team skill sets of all its employees. Because I was also evaluating the effectiveness of Dell’s technical training, I was particularly well-informed about the need for good basic academic skills before effective training can ensue.

During a meeting at Austin Community College, I developed an idea that I thought would help to address the issue at hand. The idea can best be described using the “wagon wheel” graphic that depicts a progression of workplace skills attainment shown below.

In the middle 1990s, the Skills Standards movement was in full swing, and in Texas, the Texas Skills Standards Board (TSSB) was appointed to supplement the work of the National Skills Standards Board. While I was not officially a member of the TSSB, I attended all TSSB meetings, made presentations to them and was generally considered to be an unofficial advisor to the Board. I frequently commented to the TSSB that a great deal of time and effort was being wasted nationally on skills standards projects because each time a group began the work of identifying the skills needed for competence in an industry sector, the work began at the basic core set of fundamental skills of literacy and numeracy. I maintained that this basic set of applied academic skills was COMMON TO EVERY JOB IN EVERY SECTOR, (see above) and therefore could be identified and used as the basis for each sector skills project. The TSSB eventually concurred with this assessment.

In 1995, I was asked to represent Dell on the first Workforce Investment Board in the Austin area, and I quickly became immersed in the dilemma of helping welfare recipients and others with challenges to enter and succeed in the workplace. Because I had shared the idea of a core set of applied academic skills with other Board members who thought that the concept had merit, the Capital Area Workforce Development Board contracted with Austin Community College to develop the Employability Skills Core Curriculum (ESCC), a 6-week training course for welfare recipients that resulted in an Employability Skills Core Certificate, (a forerunner of the CRC). The course incorporated WorkKeys® readiness assessments and soft skills training. The concept of the certificate was then unique in Texas, and Governor George W. Bush provided the introduction to a promotional tape that was developed by Austin Community College. The ESCC was also supported by the TSSB.

When I joined Austin Community College in 1997 as the Associate Vice-President for Workforce Education, I assumed oversight responsibilities for the ESCC program. It was during this time that I refined the concept for a portable skills credential based on WorkKeys® assessments.

From 1999-2002, as the Director of the Michigan Department of Career Development (MDCD) under Gov. John Engler, I deployed WorkKeys® assessments across the state, into every agency in the Department, and into all grants and projects that fell under the MDCD umbrella.

One of these projects, the development of the Michigan Career Readiness Certificate (MCRC) was undertaken in 2001 on behalf of the Governor who fully embraced the concept of a portable skills credential based on WorkKeys® assessments. He created the Michigan Council on Technical Excellence to develop this and other credentials. The Council was chaired by the Lt. Governor, and included business, labor, and education leaders.

I assisted the Council during the development process for the MCRC. Unfortunately, the development was undertaken late in Gov. Engler’s last term of office so we did not have a great deal of time. In addition, the Council had a steep learning curve when it came to understanding WorkKeys® assessments. However, despite these issues, the Council worked hard, and a Michigan CRC was designed and awarded to many Michigan residents before the end of 2002.

The single-level MCRC was based on four WorkKeys® assessments—Applied Mathematics, Reading for Information, Locating Information, and Writing—at scores of 4, 5, 4, and 3 respectively.

While the MCRC as a statewide project did not survive a change in administration in Michigan in 2002, it was maintained at the local level, particularly at community colleges, intermediate school districts, and at technical education centers.

The MCRC was still being awarded in 2006 when it was decided by the recipients of the West Michigan WIRED grant that the Career Readiness Certificate should be awarded across a 7-county region. This time, the CRC model followed the definition that was adopted by the CRC Consortium in 2004 (see below) and that is now used in 45 states.

In 2003, I became Gov. Mark Warner’s Special Advisor for Workforce Development in Virginia. As part of Gov. Warner’s Education For A Lifetime initiative, I recommended the development of a WorkKeys® assessment-based Career Readiness Certificate. This suggestion was particularly timely as parts of Virginia had been ravaged economically due to the loss of major industries. Also, companies in other parts of the state were very concerned about the quality and employability of graduates from education institutions. In northern Virginia, there was tremendous demand for workers in high tech industries, and many were being brought in from overseas.

Gov. Warner fully embraced the idea of a Virginia CRC to document the skills of newly disenfranchised workers in rural areas, many of whom had a high school education or less, and to guarantee the trainability of high school and college graduates. Because so many Virginians were moving (in both directions) across state lines to work, he asked that we make the CRC a regional credential.

A foundation for the initiative was already in place because several CRC pilot sites had been in place in five community colleges across the Commonwealth since 2002. Representatives from Virginia had heard me make presentations on the CRC and its deployment in Michigan, and there was great enthusiasm for the project.

One major change for me occurred when I read an excellent white paper that had been developed by Jerry Miller, the initiator of the WorkKeys® assessment concept for ACT, Inc®. Jerry made a strong case for a three-level certificate—a significant departure from my original concept. We undertook research within the ACT Occupational Profile database to determine how this model might work, and it was clear that a multi-level CRC would serve individuals and employers well.

In November 2003, we set up a statewide cross-functional task force that included representatives from all pertinent government agencies, business, labor, and education. Data from the pilot sites and further research resulted in a clear definition of the Virginia Career Readiness Certificate:

Three WorkKeys® assessments (RFI, AM, LI), used at three developmental levels: Bronze (Level 3), Silver (Level 4), and Gold (Level 5)

The task force defined operational and logistical details for the full deployment of the CRC across the state, and the Virginia Community College System (VCCS) stepped up to assume both financial and logistical responsibilities for much of the deployment. The Virginia Workforce Council ( the State Workforce Investment Board) fully supported the deployment, as did the AFL-CIO, the Virginia Chamber of Commerce, and the Virginia Manufacturers Association.

Because the CRC was to be used as an economic development tool, the Governor’s Office contracted with VECTEC, a unit of Christopher Newport University, for the development of a WorkKeys® assessment database, the Virginia Skills Bank that can be queried in multiple ways to show skill levels of residents in various geographic regions. In particular, it shows how many CRC’s have been awarded in each region, and at what levels.

For more details on the development and deployment of the CRC in Virginia, you can download the pdf under “Virginia” on the “News From The States” page of

While the Virginia deployment was underway, I contacted representatives of the states contiguous with Virginia. There was sufficient interest in the CRC for us to host a meeting of these representatives in Richmond in January 2004. While not every one of the seven states was in a position to commit to statewide deployment, there was interest in forming a Career Readiness Certificate Consortium (CRCC) to encourage further dialogue and to provide support and encouragement as needed across the seven-state region. A charter document was drawn up to define the certificate and the consortium but membership in the CRCC was free.

I made myself available to all states in the CRCC as a presenter, promoter, and advisor for certificate development and deployment, and as a result of visits to other states, word of the CRC initiative spread. During 2004, several additional states joined the CRCC.

The Virginia CRC was ready for full deployment in October 2004, and the Governor hosted a large press conference and presentation ceremony to mark the occasion. With the help of the VCCS, we then initiated a marketing campaign to create awareness of the CRC. The external campaign included billboards and public service announcements featuring Gov. Warner, and standard brochures and posters for distribution/display by community colleges, one-stop career centers, and all agencies. Internally, through agency heads, the CRC became a standard offering to clients funded by federal funding streams such as TANF, Rehabilitative Services, Corrections, Adult Education, WIA, Wagner-Peyser, Perkins, and Food Stamps. Apprentices graduated from their programs with a CRC, as did GED recipients and graduates of the community college program called Middle College that focused on disadvantaged youth. Several high schools also used the CRC as an exit credential for their Career & Technical Education students.

From October 2004 and into 2005, I continued to work on the CRC by presenting at conferences and meetings within Virginia and across the country. These presentations were so successful, and the idea was so clear and simple that by May 2005, the CRCC included 15 states.

We set up a CRC web site, created a nationwide mailing list, sent out periodic e-newsletters, and organized two meetings/year of the CRCC in conjunction with major WorkKeys® conferences.

In May 2005, I left the Warner administration, but with a six-month grant from the North Carolina Community College System, I continued to work as the Executive Director of the CRC Consortium. From December 2005 to March 2007, I was happy to provide operational and strategic leadership to the Consortium as a pro bono service of my consulting company.

In September 2006, ACT, Inc. initiated the National Career Readiness Certificate, and this has proven to be useful in states where there has been no full deployment of a state credential (e.g. Michigan). Partnerships are now being developed between some fully deployed states (e.g. North Carolina) and ACT to award a CRC that is essentially a combination of the state and national credentials. In other states, an ACT endorsement of the state CRC takes the form of an ACT seal that is applied to the state certificate.

It is important to remember that the portability and value of the CRC is guaranteed by the standard use of the same three WorkKeys assessments regardless of who issues it.

The CRCC has continued to grow and it now includes 46 states. In March 2007, the CRCC became a part of the National Organization for Career Credentialing (NOCC), a non-profit organization whose mission is to inform and educate the public about career credentialing ( The NOCC is funded by public donations. As the President of the NOCC, I continue to support the work of the CRCC by maintaining the CRCC web site (, and providing support by addressing CRC enquiries, consulting, and marketing the CRC concept on a part-time basis.

NOCC newsletters are sent out several times a year. They include news of developments within CRCC states, conference details, general information on education and training issues, and other credentialing information. Details on how you can financially support the work of the NOCC are available at

Chapter 1 – The Common Language
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The Career Readiness Certificate (CRC) certifies that job seekers have the core employability skills required across multiple industries and occupations. It is a portable credential that promotes career development and skill attainment for the individual, and confirms to employers that an individual possesses basic workplace skills in reading, math, and locating information – skills that almost all jobs require.

WorkKeys® is a job skills assessment system measuring “real world” skills that employers believe are critical to job success. These skills are valuable for any occupation—skilled or professional—and at any level of education.

Using the WorkKeys® system to build a community or statewide economic and workforce development program has tangible results for economic, educational and workforce development efforts. The WorkKeys® system allows communities to:

• Address academic and career readiness with a coordinated assessment system.
• Provide area businesses with a better-trained workforce with portable, recognized credentials.
• Be flexible and match skill level requirements with employers' needs.
• Meet the demands of workforce legislation and efforts to increase industry-based certifications.
• Improve K-12 education with a proficiency certificate for teacher assistants that meets standards of No Child Left Behind.
• Measure K-12 school accountability and address higher education reforms.

By listing the CRC in a job posting, an employer is taking advantage of the CRC as a pre-screening tool. When used this way, the CRC becomes a tool that guarantees that a potential employee has demonstrated a degree of trainability and a documented skill level. In other words, the employer has a much clearer picture of what that applicant brings to the company, and of how the applicant may add value to the bottom line.

The WorkKeys® system has three components that make it unique. These are: assessment, job profiling, and targeted training to close the skills gaps between the two.


WorkKeys® assessments measure skills in three key areas: communication, problem solving, and interpersonal skills.

Each WorkKeys® assessment has a score level range (usually 3 to 7), and the scores indicate an individual’s ability to perform more complex skills as the score level increases. All scores are cumulative, and the definition of each score level is clearly documented by ACT, Inc.® so that it is easy to identify the skills certified by the assessment.

WorkKeys® Assessments:


• Business writing
• Listening
• Reading for Information
• Writing

Problem solving
• Applied mathematics
• Applied technology
• Locating information
• Observation

Interpersonal skills

• Teamwork

WorkKeys® scores thus form the basis of a common language that employers and educators may use to communicate effectively, avoiding general and misunderstood terms such as “more math” or “more reading.”

For example, in Applied Mathematics, a score of 3 indicates that a person can:
• Solve problems that require a single type of mathematics operation (addition, subtraction, multiplication, division) using whole numbers.
• Add or subtract negative numbers.
• Change numbers from one form to another using whole numbers, fractions, decimals, or percentages.
• Convert simple money and time units (e.g. hours to minutes).

And a score of 4 indicates that a person can do all -of-the-above plus:
• Solve problems that involve one or two operations.
• Multiply negative numbers.
• Calculate averages, simple ratios, simple proportions, or rates using whole numbers and decimals.
• Add commonly known fractions, decimals, or percentages.
• Add three fractions that share a common denominator.
• Multiply a fixed number by a whole number or decimal.
• Put the information in the right order before performing calculations.

Any of the nine WorkKeys® assessments can be completed in less than an hour and can be taken at schools, businesses, one-stop career centers, or in any location that administers WorkKeys® assessments. Several assessments are available in computer-based and Spanish versions, and accommodations may be made for people with disabilities.

WorkKeys® assessments are not expensive to administer or to take. Scoring is usually done on site, and assessments may be taken as often as desired. It is strongly recommended however, that a readiness assessment (available on-line through ACT, or one of the training vendors) be used to determine if a candidate is ready to take the assessment or whether he/she would benefit from training before taking it. It is also strongly recommended that an assessment be re-taken ONLY after a training intervention has occurred.

It must be noted that ONLY WorkKeys® assessments legally certify the skills used in ACT’s job profiling. Other assessments may be used as guidelines to performance, but the CRC is defined as being based on WorkKeys® assessments. Any certificate based on assessments other than WorkKeys® may NOT be called the Career Readiness Certificate. Similarly, if additional assessments (either WorkKeys® or anything else) are included and required, the resulting certificate may NOT be called the Career Readiness Certificate.

Job Profiling

Job profiling offers a concrete way for organizations to analyze the skills needed for specific jobs and to describe those needs to educators, trainers, students, and job applicants.

For each position, job profiling identifies the skills and WorkKeys levels an individual must have to perform successfully on the job. A job profile must be conducted by a certified WorkKeys Profiler, and it is determined by subject matter experts, i.e. current job incumbents.

By comparing job profile information with the scores of individuals on appropriate WorkKeys assessments, organizations can make reliable and legally defensible decisions about hiring, training and program development. WorkKeys job profiling meets the validity and fairness requirements for EEOC compliance.

Although the CRC uses WorkKeys as the common language/metric for credentialing, it is important to understand that WorkKeys profiling is a separate process from CRC certification. It is often a mistake to talk to an employer about the CRC and profiling in the same conversation because utilization of the CRC costs the employer nothing while profiling obviously has costs associated with it. Employers who are not as familiar with WorkKeys as you are can be easily confused. It is clear that adoption of the CRC by an employer may lead to future profiling as he/she becomes convinced of the effectiveness and value of the WorkKeys system.

Any employer may take advantage of the certificate during the hiring process, regardless of whether she/he uses the WorkKeys system or not. If an employer has already profiled a job, then he/she may use the CRC as a cost-saving tool because an applicant will only have to be assessed in the other WorkKeys areas beyond the three CRC assessments.


Targeted training decisions may be made based on the skills gaps identified during the CRC assessment process. Training resources are available on-line through several vendors listed in the back of this book.

Because all skills assessed by the WorkKeys system are criterion-referenced (i.e. either you have the skill or you don’t--there is no comparison against a norm), they are efficiently and quickly learned. Training interventions do not have to be classroom based. Effective on-line training is available from several vendors. In high schools, it is hoped that WorkKeys skills will be attained through normal classroom teaching and activities. No “special course” is necessary if the teaching methodologies and curricula are appropriate and adequate.

Chapter 2 – CRC Assessments
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The three WorkKeys® assessments that constitute the CRC are Reading For Information (RFI), Applied Mathematics (AM), and Locating Information (LI). The three may be administered in one session or they may be administered days, weeks, or months apart.

The assessments may be administered as often as is needed but it is strongly recommended that no assessment be re-taken without a training/education intervention. It is recommended that no score over five years old be included in the assessments, and that an “out-of-date” assessment be re-administered.

Only WorkKeys® assessments must be used to guarantee the legal defensibility of the CRC. Do NOT substitute other assessments, even those offered by a training provider and claimed to be equivalent.

An assessment proctor does not have to be a trained WorkKeys profiler. However, ACT proctoring guidelines are specific and must be adhered to during the assessment process. These guidelines are also specific with regard to accommodating persons with special needs, including physical disabilities and non-English speakers. Visit or contact your local ACT representative for specific instructions.

A proctor may choose to give an assessment at the first meeting with a client or he/she may decide to use a pre-assessment placement tool available from ACT or online, through a training vendor. If a vendor is used to provide remediation, it is recommended that a proctor be guided by the software application to gauge readiness of the client for the full assessment. (See Appendix D for a list of training vendors.)

The proctor will be notified of the client’s score(s) by ACT, and the CRC may be awarded as soon as confirmation of the third score is received. A client’s certificate must reflect the lowest level attained. For example, scores of 3-3-5, 3-5-5 and 3-4-5 would each result in a Bronze certificate. A client with scores with this type of variation may choose to engage in training to increase his/her scores to the next higher level of the CRC. It is strongly recommended that all clients who are awarded a Bronze certificate be counseled to train for a higher level certificate.

Determination of how often a client may take assessments must be made at the appropriate decision-making level. For example, WIA clients may be funded by the state to attainment of one level only, or they may be funded to train for subsequent higher levels. However, in a local school district, the decision may be to assess students during several grades until a certificate is attained. Whatever the local situation may be, the specifics should be made clear to the client at the beginning of the assessment process. Also, certificate holders may choose to pay for additional assessments themselves.

Chapter 3 – CRC Champions
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Any new initiative needs a leader or champion. This is particularly true for something as different and far-reaching as the Career Readiness Certificate (CRC). Because the concept of a new portable skills credential and its introduction at the state level is often seen as a threat to the existing bureaucracy (especially within the education and publicly-funded workforce development systems), it is very helpful if this role of Champion is assumed by a decision-maker and/or a person in authority.

The Governor

The best Champion is the governor of the state. If he/she adopts the CRC as a major initiative within the administration, deployment is relatively easy and straightforward. This top-down mandate usually guarantees some funding from the governor’s discretionary funds under WIA, and use of existing funding streams within government agencies such as social services and rehabilitative services.

If the governor is unable to push the initiative personally, he/she may delegate the responsibility to a cabinet member. This can be very effective because the cabinet member is seen as a direct representative of the governor and he/she will have persuasive powers with other cabinet members, and therefore with agency heads.
The State Workforce Investment Board
Another great Champion is the State Workforce Investment Board (SWIB). The SWIB is mandated to advise the governor on how best to use the discretionary WIA funds, and in some states, the SWIB can use its own discretion with these funds. The benefit of having the SWIB as the Champion is that it has some authority over local Workforce Investment Boards (WIBs), and agency heads are often part of the SWIB. Obviously, this helps to get buy-in from the local WIBs and agencies, and facilitates the blending of funding streams to support the CRC effort.
The Community College System
If a state has a vibrant community college system, the Chancellor (or equivalent) may choose to assume the Champion role. Whether a community college leader takes the overall lead or not, it is essential for community colleges to play a major role in the CRC initiative as they are the only entity within the workforce development system set up to receive money for services (see Chapter 5 – CRC Funding).

Local Leadership

Other successful Champions have emerged from the grass roots level. Perhaps the most successful has been the Midlands WIB in South Carolina. Without waiting for state leadership to mandate the CRC, the staff of the Midlands WIB saw the potential benefit to their customers (employers), embraced WorkKeys® profiling, assessments and the CRC, and in its first year, gave more than 5000 assessments and awarded more than 1000 Certificates. They have a waiting list for further assessments and job profiles. In this case, the WIB staff has assumed all responsibilities for creating, distributing and tracking the CRC’s issued.

Labor Unions

A representative of a labor union can make a great Champion for the CRC. This has been the case during the deployment of the CRC in Missouri. Whoever is the Champion for the CRC, it is essential to engage the support of labor union representatives in the effort. It is unusual for labor union representatives to find fault with the CRC as the credential is based on sound union principles: the assessments are objective and based on skills a person can demonstrate according to a scale set by employees.

Chapter 4 – Getting Support from Employers and Others
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We are all too familiar with top-down mandates that come and go as state and federal administrations change. We are also aware of the unnecessary waste of time and money that these mandates often have associated with them. In the effort to create effective and rapid change, leaders often do not take the time to:
• Articulate the vision.
• Make the case for the change (i.e. the WIIFM case).
• Involve those most affected by the change in the developmental process.

Consequently, once the leadership changes, many good ideas wither because there has been no buy-in at the grass-roots level.

Getting Support From Employers

The Career Readiness Certificate (CRC) is designed first and foremost as an economic development tool. The CRC must therefore be employer-identified and supported.

The first step in creating a CRC is to secure business and industry support for a statewide, cross-industry, cross-occupation portable skills credential. It is essential that representatives from the private sector and labor organizations be educated, informed, and included from the start of the developmental process.

Strategies for securing support from business and industry include but are not limited to:

• Articulating the vision of what the CRC is and what it can do for both employers and career seekers.
One meeting, convened by the Champion, that includes employers, labor representatives, educators, economic developers and workforce development professionals, is often sufficient to inspire action and commitment to the concept and development of a regional CRC. The meeting must include an effective presentation that articulates the vision and that makes the WIIFM case. Peer-to-peer communication is very effective at this time, so it is advisable to include employer and job seeker testimonials and demonstrated ROI data in the presentation.

• Seeking endorsement from business and industry associations through presentations to association boards and/or committees, i.e. business associations, labor organizations, and industry associations.

• Securing a definite commitment from employers that they will actively support the state CRC effort.
The Oklahoma Governor’s Council for Workforce & Economic Development developed and distributed a letter of commitment. (See below)

• Facilitating employer focus groups to identify core employability skills needs of business and industry and demonstrating how the CRC will meet identified skills needs.

• Conducting pilots throughout the state to demonstrate the usefulness of the CRC and to directly involve employers in the development process (see Piloting the CRC section in the next chapter).

• Keeping all stakeholders informed and updated through articles in Chamber, Association and organizational newsletters, informal presentations at Rotary, Lions, and Kiwanis Clubs, PTA meetings, etc.

In order to maximize employer participation in any function, organizers must realize that private sector representatives work on schedules that prohibit attendance for more than 90 minutes. In fact, the best way to maximize employer attendance is to host meetings that span breakfast, lunch or dinner times, and to ensure that the meetings start and end on time.

It is also important to realize that once employers accept and become enthusiastic about a new initiative, they want it implemented immediately. It is best not to include employers in CRC discussions unless and until you are ready to begin work on its development.

For employers who are unfamiliar with WorkKeys assessments and their use in the CRC, you only have one chance to make a good first impression! It is helpful to learn what to say and what NOT to say during this introductory period. Knowing where the “hot buttons” are in an employer’s world can be very helpful. There are three main areas to bear in mind:

1. Learn the language of the CRC and use it correctly

Here are some examples of what to say to address key employer concerns:

The CRC is a legally-defensible skills credential that will:
• Pre-screen employees at no cost to the employer;
• Certify quality and competence at a specific skill level;
• Ensure that a potential or incumbent employee is trainable for the job;
• Reduce turnover and training costs;
• Increase the probability of hiring/promoting the right person;
• Increase ROI and bottom line results.

Here are some examples of what NOT to say initially . . .

• The CRC is based on WorkKeys assessments.

Employers who are unfamiliar with ACT products may be suspicious that you are promoting a vendor’s product.

• WorkKeys may be used to profile jobs.

Profiling is a somewhat complicated and expensive undertaking and it is NOT
NECESSARY for an employer to do profiling in order to use the CRC effectively. Mentioning profiling initially will probably confuse employers, especially if you mention the associated cost.

2. Develop and/or enhance working relationships with your employer colleagues

• Visit, meet, and interact with employers at every opportunity. Listen to their conversations to determine their concerns about the workforce. You may be able to use and address some of these points in later presentations.
• Go to where employers are rather than expecting them to come to you.
• If you have to set up a meeting at your location, do so on THEIR time. Breakfast meetings (7-9 a.m.) or lunchtime (11.30-1 p.m.) work best for busy private sector clients.

Remember, employers

  • Are immersed in their world.
  • Do not understand your world.
  • Are usually not interested in your world.
  • Suspect / expect that you are mired in the government or education bureaucracy and speak only that language.
  • Do not expect you to have any understanding of their world and associated problems. Surprise them! (See below).

3. Educate yourself about the global economy

• To forge better relationships with employers, learn as much as you can about the current global economies and the problems employers are facing. See Suggested Readings.

4. Catch the CRC vision and excitement—and pass it on

Exciting facts of CRC life are:
• Hundreds of thousands of people around the country are being helped into employment or better jobs using the CRC;
• Students are demonstrating skills not assessed in the academic system;
• Employers are demonstrating strong ROI data from the CRC;
• Expanded credentials, CRC+, are being developed from the CRC;
• Economies are benefiting. Employers are encouraged to either stay in a city because a skilled workforce is available or new ones are moving in for the same reason.

The CRC has changed the perception of the workforce development system in many regions. It is now seen as being demand-driven, pro-active, and useful.

Additional comments may be found in the FAQ section.

Overcoming Fear of Change

It is most important to understand that most people do not openly and actively embrace change. In fact, fear of change is the biggest inhibitor to the creation of new systems and methodologies. It is also true that educators and workforce professionals all want to help their clients to be successful so you must take the time to allow for everyone to understand how to blend traditional methods with the new approach. It is important to give these professionals time to air their concerns and to let them know that they are being listened to. However, you must take care to balance this need for discussion against the need to get the new initiative underway.

During the “buy-in” phase of CRC development, it is essential that everyone understand that the CRC is:

  • An addition to our catalog of credentials, not a replacement for any of them;
  • Necessary because of permanent changes in the workplace and in worker requirements;
  • NOT a criticism of current practice or practitioners;
  • Not going to cost any professional his/her job or supporting funding;
  • Used to bring people into the workforce, NOT to exclude them;
  • Useful to all citizens of all ages and in all career pathways; and,
  • A cost-effective demonstration of skill levels of individuals and geographic regions.


Chapter 5 – CRC Operations and Logistics
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This chapter outlines key activities to be considered when establishing a Career Readiness Certificate (CRC). The items listed are only suggestions, and the sequence of activities may vary by state.

Secure Support for the Career Readiness Certificate Concept

The CRC must be employer-identified and supported. Therefore, the first step in creating a CRC is to secure business and industry support for a statewide, cross-industry, cross-occupation portable skills credential. This has been covered in the previous chapter.
Securing support also involves identifying a CRC “champion.” This is covered in Chapter 3.
It is important to note that there are several myths regarding the CRC and WorkKeys® assessments, which must be dispelled throughout the CRC development and implementation process. These myths include:

The CRC is expensive because it is based on WorkKeys assessments, an ACT product.

The educational price of the three assessments used as the basis for the CRC is about $15. So clearly this claim is insupportable and is usually the result of confusion between profiling and assessment. Several states have set a standard price and with the inclusion of overhead, and labor, that price for the CRC is about $45.

A large bureaucracy is needed for implementation of the CRC.

Because the CRC fits within the missions of all federally-funded workforce development programs, the assessments can be adopted in one-stop career centers or other government agencies without any increase in personnel. Those agencies would only need to contact ACT in order to ensure compliance with their proctoring requirements. Scoring may be done at a partner agency such as a community college if the career center is not an ACT Service Center. Guidance and assistance is usually necessary from state government representatives but again, the CRC falls within their regular work purview.

Implementation is expensive.

Given the potential ROI to a state, start-up costs are minimal. For most states, these costs cover marketing and printing of certificates.
A budget of about $50,000 or less usually covers start-up costs and phase I of the awareness campaign as shown in Chapter 7. Ongoing costs are determined by the degree of state commitment and/or how well system partners work together. Most federal funding streams include funds for promotion and outreach, of which a portion may be re-directed toward the CRC marketing effort.

The CRC is only for welfare recipients and others who are out of work.

While the CRC is an excellent tool for assisting people who are looking for work, it is also of great benefit:
a) As an exit credential for graduates of Career & Technical Education programs;
b) To assess dislocated workers BEFORE the lay-off occurs;
c) In working with the incarcerated and at-risk youth;
d) To older workers who may not have an academic credential;
e) To college students;
f) As an advancement/promotion tool for incumbent workers within companies;
g) As a pre-screening employment tool for businesses.

It cannot be stressed too often that the CRC is a powerful tool that raises the self-esteem (and consequently the probability of being hired) of:
i) dislocated and/or older workers who may or may not have a complementary academic credential;
ii) the incarcerated who have often been told that they have no skills;
iii) high school students who have been labeled as “dumb” because their talents lie in occupational pathways

The CRC must also be recognized as a support for high school diplomas and college degrees. While the academic credential shows what a person KNOWS, the CRC certifies what a person can DO.

Develop a Career Readiness Certificate System

Development of the CRC is best achieved through a partnership among business and industry, education, economic development, workforce development and government agencies. Establishing a state CRC Taskforce allows all partners to participate in the development and design of the CRC system.

Activities associated with designing the CRC system include:

•Finalizing the implementation protocol of the CRC and issuing entity (e.g., Governor, State Workforce Investment Board, Community College Board).
• Designing a “paper” Certificate (e.g., state seal, signatures, text, colors).
• Designing the process by which individuals can obtain a CRC (e.g., may be obtained at a one-stop career center, community college and/or partner program sites).
• Designing the CRC dissemination process to be used at statewide participating CRC sites (e.g., roles and responsibilities, measures, region/state interfaces).
• Developing a cost/site estimate and customer pricing, i.e. will the cost for the CRC cover assessments only or will it include overhead costs to administer and produce the CRC.
• Designing and developing a CRC database, based on user needs, that contains WorkKeys® and CRC information (e.g., WorkKeys® assessment scores for individuals, CRC issuance information).
• Determining a data collection method.
• Designing and developing a CRC website (may be stand-alone website or part of an existing website) to disseminate information to employers and potential CRC certificate holders and other interested persons or organizations.
• Developing an infrastructure and implementation budget. Budget items to be considered are:
o Database development (installation and training)
o Website development (installation and training)
o Travel associated with development and implementation activities
o Marketing materials
o CRC training for participating CRC sites
o CRC printing
o Dissemination (perhaps mailing) of certificates
• Determining funding mechanism(s) for CRC. Some possible funding sources are:
o “Seed” money from state, e.g. WIA state set-aside funds.
o State and federal workforce training and career education programs, e.g. Perkins, TANF, Adult Education, Rehabilitation Services
o Business and industry associations
o Employer investments

• Ensuring the integrity of the CRC. One strategy for ensuring the integrity of the CRC and its dissemination process is to partner with the community college system (or its equivalent depending on the state) to use its existing WorkKeys® processes and ACT Service Centers. If the community college system does not have a strong WorkKeys® infrastructure in place, then the State CRC Taskforce may want to identify the most appropriate entity/organization to develop a strong WorkKeys® infrastructure to support the CRC rather than creating a stand alone CRC process.

Pilot the Career Readiness Certificate

Piloting the CRC allows partners and stakeholders to see the results of the CRC before statewide implementation. CRC pilots will demonstrate that the CRC signals to employers that an individual possesses the basic core employability skills and is job ready and trainable. In addition, successful pilots will provide the CRC Taskforce information to improve CRC processes and procedures, and an “industry-to-industry” endorsement for marketing the CRC.

Suggested pilot process:
• Gain commitment from five Community College / Workforce Investment Board regions to serve as pilot sites for the CRC.
• Develop CRC project briefing materials for the pilot regions and conduct briefings.
• Develop CRC system training materials for the pilot regions and conduct training on the web-based certification system.
• Gather information for database.
• Build the infrastructure to support each site.

Create A Career Readiness Certificate Communication Strategy

Marketing the CRC needs to include both top-down and bottom-up communication and education strategies. The CRC needs to be presented as meeting the core employability skills needs of business and industry, as identified by employers. It is essential to include WorkKeys® seminars as part of the marketing and outreach efforts. Other suggested elements for marketing the CRC:
• Select CRC “ambassadors” for marketing and outreach at each pilot site and statewide.
• Develop a marketing/communication strategy that includes the use of success stories to spread the word, i.e. public service announcements using top industry leaders.
• Develop a marketing/communication plan that includes identification of target audiences and events, determination of appropriate communication media, creation of supporting materials and an ambassadors’ schedule.

If needed, select an advertising agency to assist with marketing (See Chapter 7 for more marketing ideas).

Roll-Out of the Career Readiness Certificate

The deployment of the CRC should start with a “bang”. A weak roll-out will not generate excitement and will not convey a sense of its importance.

Rolling-out the CRC should involve a series of events to make employers and jobseekers aware of the CRC, its benefits, and how it may be obtained and used. The roll-out process should be designed by the State CRC Taskforce to ensure broad participation, representation and support at all roll-out activities. All roll-out activities should include employers and labor representatives who participated in the CRC pilots or who support the initiative, and who are familiar with WorkKeys®.

Roll-out awareness activities may include but are certainly not limited to:
• Press conference and kick-off event by the Governor or other CRC “champion” with media. Photo opportunities with the Governor for employers, students, and others are always effective.
• Unveiling of promotional billboards, posters, brochures, etc.
• Kick-off events at multiple CRC locations throughout state to award certificates given through the pilots. Local media must be included.
• Radio and TV interviews/news spots during the week of the kick-off event
• Governor “Career Readiness Day” proclamation

After the kick-off event(s), an intense marketing campaign of no less than six weeks should consolidate awareness in the public psyche. Less intense on-going marketing efforts should continue indefinitely. See chapter 7 on Marketing for more ideas.

Chapter 6 – CRC Funding
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Implementation of the CRC is just another way to serve the client and to contribute to the economic well-being of the region and the customer.

While the idea of the Career Readiness Certificate (CRC) is readily accepted and embraced by most constituencies of stakeholders, the first question that usually arises, and is most often asked by government employees and/or educators, is “Who pays for it?”

The perception is that a large bureaucracy and budget are needed to implement the CRC across a state or region. This is most definitely NOT the case, as has been demonstrated across the country. The will to make it happen is usually sufficient to guarantee a successful deployment, plus a shift in job emphasis and duties.

The CRC is intended to be a skills credential for ALL people so there are multiple options for funding the credential.

The cost for assessment and the certificate is much lower than most people imagine. For example, ACT™ offers each WorkKeys® assessment at the educational price of about $5, and several states have set a standard price for the CRC across all government agencies and for private citizens. The consensus is that the total cost should be about $45, including 5 copies of the certificate, and often a laminated miniature “pocket” version.

All current federal workforce funding streams may be used for the CRC (see below), and individuals who are eligible for assistance under those streams should be counseled to attempt the assessments. Citizens who are ineligible for these funds may choose to pay for the assessments themselves. Therefore, the ability to accept private personal funds must be built into the operational component of the credentialing system. One stop career centers are not set up to accept money and they must not become profit centers as this violoates WIA regulations.

The most workable solution for state agencies that are not set up to receive money is for the state to designate a partner within the workforce development system as the site for privately-funded assessments. In most states, this partner is the community college system or individual community colleges. The customized training unit within each college is generally run as a cost center and therefore is the logical location for assessments and receipt of monies.

Federal funding streams that may be used to pay for the certification process are:

• Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
• Perkins (secondary and post-secondary - used for K-12 Career and Technical Education, and some technical community college programs)
• Dislocated worker (TAA)
• Food Stamps
• Apprenticeships
• Workforce Investment Act (WIA)
• Department of Corrections
• Rehabilitative Services
• Wagner-Peyser
• Adult Education (AE)
• Ability to Benefit (ATB)

In addition, there are many state funding streams that can be used, especially those designated for customized skills training and economic development.

In a well-developed publicly-funded workforce development system, all state agencies share the common goal of meeting the demands of the employer (the primary customer) and the career seeker (the secondary customer). At the very least, and in the absence of a truly integrated system, agencies need to be encouraged to address the needs of their customers through partnerships and collaborative endeavors among and between state agencies.

Several states have recently passed legislation requiring the development of a state certificate of work readiness without specific funds being appropriated to address the funding issue.

In all states where a workforce development system exists, and where one person oversees all funding streams, it is a straightforward matter to implement the CRC across all agencies. It is merely a matter of making the decision. Where funding streams fall under the purview of two or three high level state officials, it is still relatively easy to implement the CRC. However, it does require a good working relationship between and among these officials, and strong leadership from the Champion is vital.

In some instances, the governor as the Champion has designated significant funding to support WorkKeys® assessments and the CRC initiative:
• Indiana - In 2004, $25 million of Reed Act monies were used to create an entire WorkKeys® system that includes “free” job profiles and assessments, and assessment of high school students.
• Michigan - In 1999, discretionary funds supplied from the tobacco settlement were used to create a system of 42 WorkKeys® Service Centers, to train WorkKeys® profilers, and to encourage profiling. No monies were used for assessments, and the Michigan CRC was created in 2001- 2002 with no state dollars invested.
• Virginia - In 2003, $20,000 was provided from the Governor’s discretionary WIA funds to begin the CRC initiative. Of this, approximately half was used to develop the Skills Bank database. In 2004, an additional $50,000 was used to support a statewide marketing campaign. All other funds have been come from existing federal funding streams, particularly through the Virginia Community College System..

• Missouri and Kansas – In 2007, the CRC is an important part of the Kansas City WIRED grant, with the certificates being signed jointly by the Governors of Missouri and Kansas.


Chapter 7 – CRC Marketing
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A credential (educational or otherwise) is only valuable if it is valued. And a credential is only valued if it is understood and used to benefit the user (the credential holder and the employer). This is particularly true with the Career Readiness Certificate (CRC), a new skills credential based on a proprietary product.

It is helpful that WorkKeys® assessments, the common language for the portable skills credential are a product of ACT™, a well-known and well-respected company with a 45-year unblemished history of performance and legal defensibility. However, there are still many thousands of employers and career seekers who have not heard of WorkKeys® assessments. So, when the CRC is introduced at whatever level (state, regional, or local), it will be necessary to create an awareness of it: its benefits to employers, to career seekers, and to the economy.

Marketing or promotion will be necessary to some degree or another. However, marketing efforts need NOT be expensive or long-lived. The approach taken depends on the scenario for deployment of the CRC.

The suggestions below are for a full statewide deployment project, headed by the governor. They are easily modified if the CRC is being deployed more locally or regionally.

Marketing Team
It is imperative that a cross-functional statewide team be involved in the marketing decision-making process. If it is convenient, this team may be the statewide task force used to determine and oversee the logistics and distribution of deployment of CRC’s. It MUST include all stakeholders who interact in some way with the customers (employers and career seekers). The team must include one-stop career center personnel covering all funding streams (WIA, Wagner-Peyser, TAA, TANF, Food Stamps, Perkins, veterans, rehabilitative services, and perhaps UI). It is strongly recommended that representatives from the state chamber of commerce, professional organizations such as a manufacturing or an IT association, Department of Corrections, youth services, customized training, faith-based organizations, labor unions, and economic development funding sources also be included.

The state Champion should convene the team, determine the amount and source of the budget, and approve the budget for marketing efforts.

Any marketing campaign has two components: awareness and promotion.

Awareness Activities
Awareness (the first 4-6 weeks of the campaign)
Creating awareness is a role that most governors are very willing to play if the CRC project has his/her support.

Approaches include:

• A “kick-off” event that includes the governor to create interest in the media. It is strongly suggested that the governor recognize the input of employers, labor leaders, colleges and schools during the development and deployment phase, and if possible, he/she should recognize key people and groups in some way at the event. At least a photo opportunity with the governor should be offered. Employees and/or students who have recently received the CRC would be thrilled to have the credential presented to them by the governor, and the media respond very well to this type of photo opportunity. Every effort should be made to get as much media participation as possible during the event that should be held in an appropriate location (college, school, chamber, for example), including TV, print (newspapers and professional or business journals), and radio.

• Public Service Announcements (PSAs) done by the governor (work with the governor’s communications department for script approval, etc.), and shown on public television, access channels, or played on radio. These PSAs may be produced by a local TV station free of charge, as each station is required by law to give back to its community. They should be used after the major “kick-off” event, if one is being planned.

• A state web site for the CRC, and a promotional piece on the governor’s home page is very helpful.

• Advertising via billboards, public transportation, etc. It is helpful if the state or region can develop and use a consistent tag line.

• Letter on the CRC from the governor, for inclusion in the state chamber newsletter or similar publications.

• Letter from the governor to each community college president, school board chair, and each Workforce Investment Board Chair.

• Brochures featuring the state seal and /or the governor’s picture. These are useful for informing employers and career seekers about the new credential. They may be developed at the state level if a marketing budget is available, or they may be developed as a state template with customization by community colleges, one-stop centers, or other partners in the statewide workforce development system. Examples of printer-ready tri-fold brochures are shown in Appendix B.

Billboards and public service announcements (PSA’s) may be run initially for a 4-6 week period. It is recommended that they be re-run a few months later. For example, if the CRC is launched in October, it would be wise to place the billboards and run the PSA’s from that date until perhaps Thanksgiving. Then they should be re-run from the resumption of the school year (January through April).

Promotion Activities

Promotion (ongoing)

• Billboards are a useful and effective way to continue to promote the CRC after the initial awareness campaign has been completed. These may or may not feature the governor.

Using actual students and employers endorsing the CRC sends a powerful message. Billboards serve as a reminder to residents, and they serve to make visitors to the state/region aware that a system is in place to guarantee a skilled workforce.


• Continued distribution of CRC brochures at all points of contact with the general public, students, and employers, including in high school counseling offices.

• As employers adopt the CRC as a pre-hiring tool, testimonials from them should be used in brochures directed at employers. Peer-to-peer messaging is very powerful.

• Presentation opportunities on the CRC should be sought at Rotary lunches, Lions meetings, and at any organization that involves employers. The state marketing team may prepare a presentation for use by team members or others in the system. If individuals create their own presentations, care must be taken to ensure that the message and information on the CRC are consistent with the state's message, and are accurate. It is a good idea to steer a presenter away from talking too much about WorkKeys unless he/she is an expert on the topic.

• A short DVD can be developed that features comments from employers and career seekers. This is useful as an inclusion with a presentation or as a stand alone effort for use in display booths at conferences, or in one-stop career centers. If the governor is the Champion for the initiative, he/she should be asked to do the introduction to the DVD. Of course, this inclusion will date the DVD so the pros and cons of this approach should be discussed by the marketing team.

• All state and local WIB’s should assist in the promotion of the CRC. In most cases, the state WIB is the source of state funding for marketing and promotion (using the governor’s set aside WIA funds). A local WIB can direct funding to support the CRC, and this sometimes includes marketing dollars.

• Articles should be submitted for inclusion in electronic and hard copy newsletters to employers, teachers, parents, etc. The Champion usually takes the lead on this effort, either writing the articles himself/herself, or delegating others to the task. Again, the consistency and accuracy of the information is important.

• A quarterly e-newsletter dedicated to skills and system development might be appropriate in some instances. This would provide a venue for CRC success stories, updates from WIBs, colleges and the private sector. Of course, one person is required to take the lead and responsibility for the project, and its success depends on the willingness of others across the state to submit articles and other information.

• The CRC web site should be maintained, and a permanent link to it should be set up from the governor’s web site.

At the local level, it is sometimes possible to capitalize on long-standing relationships to get low-cost TV or other advertising. One example of the results of such a relationship is shown below, and was developed by the Midlands Workforce Development Board in South Carolina and used on buses to celebrate the successes of students in an alternative high school.


Chapter 8 – CRC Data Collection
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Every WorkKeys® profile and WorkKeys® score is reported and archived by ACT. In many states, these data are now being captured in a database that is a powerful economic development tool.

Virginia was the first state to undertake the task of development of such a database, and the Virginia Skills Bank has become a model for other states. Currently, the Skills Bank, North Carolina’s Talent Reserve and Missouri’s Toolbox have databases that may be queried in multiple ways, e.g. by zip code, school district, community college district, economic development region and by the entire state to show skill levels of citizens in a particular region. This is of great value to economic developers and relocating employers. Other states are following their lead, and it would be wise for a state that is about to deploy the Career Readiness Certificate (CRC) to contact these other states with a view to perhaps purchasing a working database or to get advice on how to develop their own. Contact information for states is available on the CRC consortium web site (

The ideal would be for ALL databases of this type to “talk” to one another because economic boundaries do not follow state lines.

If a state wishes to develop a database to capture all WorkKeys data, it is necessary to build into the CRC system a methodology for data collection. In most states, especially those in which the community colleges have taken the operational lead, a designee at each college is responsible for entering all data (profiles and scores). Obviously, this process must be safeguarded to ensure validity and integrity of the data, and access to the database must at least be password protected. The lead person is usually also the one held responsible for issuance of the certificates with access to the state CRC template.

Development of a statewide database is not difficult and is most cost-effective. The average cost is approximately $7000. Development may be undertaken by the state IT department, a college IT department or it may be contracted to an outside source.

As an enhancement of the original database, one or two states are seeking to include the contact information of citizens whose scores are in the database and who would like to be contacted directly by an employer. Great care must be taken with this enhancement to avoid duplication of effort with a state’s mandated Labor Market exchange system and to guard the privacy of individuals.

Chapter 9 – CRC and Economic Development
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Development of the Career Readiness Certificate (CRC) is easy but it is a useless credential unless it is understood, valued and used by employers and career seekers. Proving the value of the CRC to employers is relatively straightforward as it involves demonstration of a monetary return on investment (ROI). ROI data is rapidly becoming available for every state in which deployment of the CRC has been successful.

For an employer who may be contemplating moving his/her business to a new state or expanding an existing company, the skill level of the available workforce is often a deciding factor. The CRC is a powerful economic development tool.

Employers who use the CRC as a pre-screening tool, either posted in the job listing or specified on referrals from one-stop career centers or other employment agencies, benefit because they only interview candidates whose skill levels have been documented and certified. This raises the interviewing process to a new level with the elimination of basic skills testing or subjective assessment through the resume or conversation.

One employer has demonstrated that new employees who enter with a CRC require about half the time to learn the job through OJT, and this saves the company at least 50% on new hire training. Also, candidates with a CRC are usually a “better fit” for the job and consequently prove to be happier employees with a good work ethic.

It is also relatively easy to use the CRC as an economic development tool that is of benefit to a geographic region or an entire state.

Using a statewide database that captures all CRC and WorkKeys assessment data (see Chapter 8 ), it is possible to demonstrate the trainability and skill levels of citizens in a region to which an employer may be thinking of relocating.

The benefit to economic developers of a statewide database is that it shows quickly and clearly the skill levels of citizens in any given region, as defined and certified by WorkKeys assessments. While no names are displayed in the query, and while many of the scores in the database may belong to people who are already working, the results demonstrate:
• The overall skill level of a community, region or state, and
• The existence of a system that can certify skill levels.
This is valuable to potential employers in particular as they are not likely to relocate or open a new company branch in an area where the education and skill levels are low, or where they do not believe that a support system for their training needs exists.

Chapter 10 – CRC Certificate Design
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The design of the Career Readiness Certificate (CRC) should indicate the prestige of the credential but there is no universal design standard. The level of certification is determined by the “lowest” scores obtained. For example, scores of 3-3-4 or 3-4-5 would each result in a Bronze certificate.

In some states, the decision has been made to show the actual scores and skill levels achieved while maintaining the CRC level. For example, in Missouri, for scores of 3-3-4, the front of the CRC would show the scores 3-3-4 and the back would list the WorkKeys® skills demonstrated by these scores. However, in Virginia, a recipient receives a Bronze CRC with scores of 3-3-4, the front of the certificate would show no actual scores, and the back of the certificate would describe level 3 skills only. These are pre-printed on the certificate so that all that needs to be added to the front is the recipient’s name and the date.

There are pros and cons for each approach. As a general rule, the fewer steps that must be taken by the issuing entity, the smaller the chance of human error, but it is also important that a recipient be given full credit for his/her achievements.

Most states are choosing to number the blank certificates (on the front or on the back) to facilitate record-keeping and to guard the integrity of the credential. These numbers are recorded in a statewide database (see Chapter 8 – CRC Data Collection) together with contact information of the recipient. More details are available in Chapter 5 – CRC Operations and Logistics.

Certificate Back

While there is significant variation in design for the front of the certificates, the back design is fast becoming a standard. Many believe that the back of the CRC is as important as the front because it is here that the WorkKeys® skills that have been certified are listed. It is this side of the certificate that explains what a person can DO.

Endorsements for the state CRC are often included, e.g. the state workforce investment board, chamber, labor unions, community colleges, economic development organizations, etc.
Most states create “blank” certificates for Bronze, Silver and Gold levels, and the corresponding WorkKeys® skills are already listed on the back.

In some instances, states have opted to customize the back of the CRC to reflect the actual skills certified.

Certificate Front

While there is no standard design for the front of the CRC, all designs have a header or title, at least one signature, and some explanation of what the credential is based on. Designs from several states are shown below..



If the CRC is a state credential, the optimum is for the certificate to bear the state seal and governor’s signature. Suggested alternatives to the governor’s signature are those of the lieutenant governor, the chair of the state workforce investment board, the chancellor of the community college system, the president of the state chamber of commerce, or the director of a state department (economic or workforce development, for example).

If the CRC initiative is more local, the CRC can be signed by whomever the task force deems appropriate. Examples are the chair of the local workforce investment board, the president of the chamber of commerce, or the school superintendent. It is acceptable to have more than one signature unless the governor’s signature is used. In this case, local politics must determine if there is another signature on the certificate.


Chapter 11 – The CRC+
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The Career Readiness Certificate does not certify soft or technical skills, and these additional skills are sometimes demanded by employers. So, the CRC is now being expanded to create the CRC+ that may be generic or industry-specific.

The CRC+ is defined as:

The CRC plus any other assessments/requirements. That is the three CRC WorkKeys assessments (AM, RFI, and LI) and the results from any additional assessments.

It is NOT correct to add additional assessments and still use the name Career Readiness Certificate. The name MUST be changed to CRC+ if additions have been made.

The CRC is a recognized Service Mark and as such it has a uniform and clear definition, associated with the Consortium. This definition was set out in the original Consortium Charter document and has been used throughout this book.

The first versions of the CRC+ were developed in northern Virginia. Representatives of the Virginia Community College System are still working with representatives of the healthcare, manufacturing, and hospitality industries, and labor unions to perfect the credentials.

Here is what has been done so far:
  • CRC+--Certified Manufacturing Specialist
    Any level of CRC + Applied Technology Level 3
  • CRC+--Hospitality (in development)
    Bronze CRC + Customer Service
  • CRC+--Healthcare Clinical Technician (pilot)
    Silver CRC, healthcare contextual assessments
  • CRC+--Apprenticeship (pilot)
    Any level CRC + apprenticeship studies
If you are interested in progress on these programs, visit Virginia under “News From The States” on .

Updates on CRC+ initiatives in other states will be posted on the CRC web site.

Chapter 12 – Return on Investment
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Many employers who have adopted WorkKeys® assessments as part of their succession-planning or hiring practices recognize that they give their company a competitive advantage. In an economy where differences in market share are small, it is natural that a CEO would be unwilling to share any small advantage with competitors. Consequently, for many years, it was hard obtain ROI data from WorkKeys users. The situation was exacerbated by the fact that, in the private sector, it was unlikely that an employee’s time would be dedicated to setting up evaluation processes, collecting data, and then disclosing the results.

It is gratifying that thanks to the persistence of many people across the country, valuable ROI data has been obtained from WorkKeys users, and that data is now readily available. Some of this data may be found on the ACT web site. I personally was able to obtain data and I have used it to convince other employers to try WorkKeys assessments. While some of this data is now a few years old, I have included it below in case readers find it useful in presentations.

• Ohio Plastics Extrusion Company
Before WorkKeys:
Turnover: 1 in 3 at a cost of $120,000 p.a.
Overtime costs: $500,000 p.a.
Scrap costs: $1 million

After WorkKeys
Turnover: 1 in 20 at a cost of $18,000 p.a.
Overtime costs: $25,000 p.a.
Scrap costs: $790,000
Total savings: $685,000 p.a.

Increase in profit after 5% tax = $1.535 million on $17 million gross sales

• Northrup-Grumman (Virginia)

After using WorkKeys for one year:
33% reduction in recruitment time
28% turnover in new employees
ROI study showed savings of $1 million

• Morningstar Foods (Virginia)
Three WorkKeys job profiles used Applied Technology, Applied Math, Reading For Information, Locating Information, and Observation assessments.
Hiring against these profiles resulted in an 85% retention rate compared with a retention rate of only 50% when hiring was NOT done against the profile.

After WorkKeys was used in the company, turnover decreased by 35% in one year, absenteeism decreased by 8.5%, and OJT time reduced by up to 50%.

BWX Technologies (Virginia)

After using WorkKeys profiles for hiring, training time for new hires dropped by 20%.

ROI for the CRC
Because the CRC was only initiated in 2004, and many states are only now actually deploying the certificate, it has been harder to obtain ROI data for the CRC. However, Robin Fiddes at Morningstar Foods in Virginia was an early adopter of the CRC and she used the ROI processes she had already established in the company to develop the following data:

• In the hiring process, a candidate who brought a CRC to the table reduced testing costs by 64%. In 2005, that meant a total savings of $10,860.00.
• OJT costs were reduced between $1,280.00 - $2,560.00 per employee
• During 2005, savings were $128,000.00 to $256,000.00 in strictly regular, hourly wages required to pay another employee to handle the OJT for the new hire

Appendix A
Frequently Asked Questions

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1. Is the CRC expensive to implement?
This is a tough one to answer because it depends on many factors. The bulk of the costs can and should be covered using federal funding streams that already flow into the state. What is needed here is for the Champion to make sure that all government agencies are using some of their funding to support clients who wish to get a CRC. It is also helpful if the governor or state workforce investment board (SWIB) designates some of the 15% set-aside WIA funds to support the initiative. This may be as little as a few thousand dollars to get things started and to fund the first round of printing and data collection costs. In addition to existing funding streams, some state legislatures create a pool of money for the CRC. In Indiana, the approach was to use Reed Act funds to pay for profiling, assessments, marketing and CRC’s. In general, full implementation, including marketing can be achieved for about $75,000. There is obviously no upper limit!
2. Who should lead the state initiative?
Every state initiative needs a “Champion” and the best one is the governor. Alternatives are: Lieutenant Governor, a member of the cabinet, the Chair of the SWIB, the state chamber of commerce, labor unions, and professional associations.
3. Who should do the official marketing for the CRC?
This depends who is acting as Champion and where the funding is coming from. Each state does the marketing differently but the lead is usually taken by a major workforce development system partner such as the community college system, or the SWIB.
4. How much does the marketing cost?
This depends on the extent of the effort and on existing relationships within the state. For example, much can be achieved at a very low cost if the governor asks for assistance from the workforce development system partners, public television stations, etc. An effective marketing campaign may be undertaken for as little as $50,000.
5. Who should issue the CRC?
For a statewide initiative, the CRC should be issued by a workforce development system partner such as the governor’s office, a government agency (e.g. Department of Commerce, Labor or Economic Development) or the community college system.
If the CRC initiative is not statewide, then any organization may design and issue the CRC. For example, in SC, the Midlands Workforce Development Board has issued thousands of CRCs, and this same approach is being contemplated by other Boards. Tom Hadlick of Syracuse University has been issuing certificates on behalf of the University, but also in that state, Rochester Works! is issuing CRCs on behalf of the WIB. In PA, the Central Pennsylvania Workforce Development Corporation is having success working with one stop clients and issuing them the CRC. Whoever takes the responsibility, it is essential that the process be well-defined, clear and secure.
6. Is the CRC equivalent to a high school diploma, or any other degree?
No. Because the CRC is based on criterion-referenced (performance-based) assessments, it is a measure of what a person can DO rather than what a person KNOWS. It is more useful to think of the CRC as a complementary credential to the high school diploma.
It is especially beneficial when it is used as an exit credential for Career & Technical Education students.
7. Is it legal to use the CRC in the hiring process?
Yes, as long as it is not the sole discriminator or selection tool.
8. Can the CRC be awarded to people with disabilities?
9. Can the CRC be awarded to the incarcerated?
Yes, but training may not be done on-line.
10. How old does someone have to be to take the WorkKeys assessments?
It is best not to use WorkKeys assessments with anyone under the age of 14, i.e. it should not be given to students below the 9th grade. Most schools consider 10th grade to be a good starting point. There is no upper age limit.
11. How much does the CRC cost?
Many states are setting a standard price for the CRC at $45. This includes all assessments, the certificate + 5 copies, and in some cases, a laminated CRC “pocket” card.
12. How can a state guard the integrity of the CRC?
It is best to number all certificates and to set up a database with the number of a certificate and the recipient’s name. The certificate should also be printed on paper that does not copy. If a certificate template is set up, it must be password protected in every designated issuing location.
13. Who should sign the CRC?
For a state certificate, it should be signed by someone who is known and recognized in the state. The best person to sign the CRC is the governor but it may also be signed by some other easily identified person with some status and authority.
14. How Do You Get and Keep Employers Engaged in the CRC Initiative?
Getting support from employers was covered in Chapter 4. Some of the major points are worth repeating here.
In order to maximize employer participation in any function, organizers must realize that private sector representatives work on schedules that prohibit attendance for more than 90 minutes. In fact, the best way to maximize employer attendance is to host meetings that span breakfast, lunch or dinner times, and to ensure that the meetings start and end on time.
It is also important to realize that, once employers accept and become enthusiastic about a new initiative, they want it implemented immediately. It is best not to include employers in CRC discussions unless and until you are ready to begin work on its development.
Employers respond best to data that show a positive impact on their bottom line. Employers are looking for employees who are trainable, and they are often frustrated with the poor quality of the applicants who respond to job postings. They are too often disillusioned with the public education and workforce development systems, and while they are usually sympathetic to efforts to assist the chronically unemployed, they do not see these people as being the pipeline for their businesses.
When the CRC concept is first introduced to employers therefore, it is essential that these realities be taken into account. If an educator, even a high ranking professional, presents the CRC as “the answer”, many employers will be turned off the CRC as “just another education project”. Similarly, if the message is delivered by a workforce development professional, employers may well misinterpret the CRC as another “feel good” initiative aimed at people on assistance.
So, there are important things to communicate at the outset:
• The CRC will save employers money when used as a pre-screening hiring tool during the hiring process.
• The CRC is a credential that will certify what a person of any age and any educational background can DO rather than what they KNOW. That means that an employer will be able to judge whether an applicant is trainable, either in an entry-level position or when being considered for a promotion.
• The CRC is a legally defensible tool that is also EEOC and ADA compliant.
• The CRC will not cost the employer anything, unless he/she chooses to offer the assessments to potential or incumbent employees.
These messages are best delivered by an employer who is already using the CRC. Testimonials from other employers about savings during hiring, OJT, etc. send a powerful message.
15. How do you get educators involved with and excited about the CRC?
All educators want to do the very best that they can for their students. If the benefits of the CRC are made clear, if the CRC message is inclusive (for all students), and positive (a complement not a rival to the high school diploma), if they can be assured that the CRC will enhance the chances of success for their students and their school’s reputation, and will not increase their teaching burden, educators are usually supportive.
16. How do you create employer demand for the CRC?
Employers respond best to results. So, even if an employer has not heard of WorkKeys assessments or the CRC, he/she will be impressed with high quality job applicants and with demonstrated ROI data. Once they find out that the CRC can give them a competitive edge, employers will demand it.
17. Does an employer have to be using WorkKeys profiles before he/she can use the CRC?
No. An employer who has not used profiling can ask for the CRC during the hiring process as a guide to applicant quality.
18. Is the CRC truly portable?
Yes. Even if an employer has never heard of WorkKeys assessments , he/she can read on the back of the CRC the certified skills that a person has. These skills are needed everywhere so, regardless of who issues the CRC and in what state, it is accepted everywhere.
19. What if an employer has never heard of WorkKeys assessments? Can a job applicant still use it during the hiring process?
Yes. See Question 18.
20. Why is the CRC referred to as a complementary credential?
Existing credentials measure what a person knows. The CRC explains that a person knows how to apply that knowledge in the workplace. So, the CRC complements (“completes”) any academic credential.
21. What is the “life” of a CRC?
If the skill requirements of a job never change, the level of CRC does not need to be revisited. However, it is recommended that the assessments be re-administered after five years as it is very unlikely that no change has occurred. If the skill requirements of a job change frequently or significantly, the CRC level should be re-assessed at least annually.
22. Where can a person take the WorkKeys assessments?
There is an extensive system of WorkKeys Value Added Resellers (VARS) across the country. Begin by contacting the local community or technical college.
23. Do you have to be a trained WorkKeys profiler to give the assessments?
No. You DO have to be an approved proctor. Contact ACT for approval.
24. Who scores the assessments?
If the assessments are given by an ACT Value-Added Reseller, scoring is done on the spot. In rare cases, the assessments are sent to ACT in Iowa City for scoring.
25. Why were only three WorkKeys assessments used for the CRC?
The ACT Occupational database shows that the three assessments were used in more than 85% of the 13,000 profiles conducted nationwide across all industry sectors.
26. What is a Platinum CRC?
Some employers are interested in assessing skills at levels higher than Level 5. Consequently, in some instances, the three assessments at level 6 are referred to as a Platinum level CRC.
27. How does the CRC save an employer money?
By requiring a specified level of the CRC during the hiring process, an employer can better assess whether the applicant has the basic skills needed on the job. Knowing this, time and money are saved by not interviewing or hiring applicants who are not suited to the job. Also, when a new employee enters a job with the required skill level, OJT requires less time and is more effective.
If the CRC is used as a promotional tool, the employer saves time and money by training an employee ONLY in the skill areas required for the new job. This process is also objective and can save money by providing a buffer against law suits.
28. How can the CRC be funded?
Many federal funding streams may be used to fund the CRC. (See Chapter 6 – CRC Funding.)
29. What is the difference between the CRC and the WRC?
A frequently asked question about the CRC is “What is the difference between the CRC and the WRC”? This question arises because there is a perception that the WRC is endorsed and supported by the US Chamber of Commerce. It IS true that the WRC is featured on the Chamber web site, but that is more because of the logistical arrangement of the WRC offices being located in the Chamber Building, then it is a measure of support of the credential.
To explain the differences, it is helpful to look at the history of each certificate. The development of the CRC is covered in detail in the Prologue.
In 2002, Congress funded the Equipped For the Future (EFF) project. The award was made to the National Institute For Literacy. Within the award, reference was made to a “work ready credential”, and so plans were developed to create it. Agencies and organizations in five states, New York, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Florida, and Washington, and in DC contributed major funds (often many hundreds of thousands of dollars) to the EFF project. The WRC was based on adult learning standards set out in the EFF project and it has been in development for several years. A “soft launch” of the WRC was planned for spring 2006 with a proposed full launch in 2007. However, I have no data on how many WRC’s have been issued to date, and in summer 2007, I learned that the WRC was being modified once again. There is little evidence that in 2008, there is much activity in terms of issuance of the WRC.
The WRC attempted to certify basic work readiness (mainly in terms of soft skills) only for entry-level jobs. In 2006, I was told by a representative of the WRC Board that the WRC’s best use would be in one-stop career centers as a determination of a client’s ability to handle a job interview.
The WRC is based on specially-developed assessments in Situational Judgment (soft skills), Oral Language, Reading with Understanding, and Using Math to Solve Problems. In 2006, the assessments in use were developed by CASTLE Worldwide (it is my understanding that this is the fifth assessment company that has been used for the WRC), and are available for “non-native speakers of English”. Each assessment module takes between 30 and 60 minutes, and is pass/fail. Four modules must be passed within one year, and modules must be taken for the first time within 30 days. Failure indicates areas of weakness so (presumably) remediation can be administered. I have no information on what remediation is recommended or available. The modules are internet-based and results are available within 3 weeks. The first-time cost of four modules is $65 with retake costs of $15 ($25 for Oral Language). The reliability and validity of the assessments are expected to be determined after many months of data collection and awarding of the WRC.
The CRC was developed and deployed in Michigan in 2002, at about the same time as the Kentucky Employability Certificate was conceived. See History of the CRC for more information. In summary, the CRC is a measure of how a person can apply academic knowledge to demonstrate what he or she can DO with that knowledge. No assessment of soft skills is included in the certificate.
The CRC is the only portable skills credential that is based on WorkKeys assessments, and is therefore demonstrably legally defensible and truly criterion referenced. It certifies trainability for existing and emerging careers at various levels, not entry-level jobs. The CRC is easily understood and transported between careers because of its uniform definition across the country. To date, more than 150,000 CRC’s have been awarded to people of all ages, and this number is growing rapidly.
WorkKeys assessments accommodate special needs, and Spanish versions are available. Each assessment takes about 45 minutes and results are available immediately. There is no “failing” score. Assessments may be taken at any time but it is recommended that only scores that are less than 5 years old be used in the CRC. Assessments are internet-based and also available in paper/pencil format. The average cost for the CRC (all three assessments) is $45. On-line training is readily available and sanctioned by ACT through WIN, Inc. ( ) and Keytrain ( .
It is important to understand that the choice does NOT have to be WRC OR CRC. In fact, a state could use BOTH. The two certificates measure completely different things and there are several other factors (above) that clearly make them different choices. It is obvious that the states that many years ago invested thousands of public dollars in the WRC project are anxious to see a return on their investment. Consequently, there are no statewide CRC initiatives in New York and New Jersey for example, but there are local organizations who issue the CRC. It is very significant that, even though Florida was an initial investor in the EFF project, that state has now undertaken full statewide CRC implementation.
30. If an employer is using the CRC as a hiring/promotion tool, how might the Certificate be augmented by soft skill straining and certification?
Soft skills assessments and training are available and may be used as supplements to the CRC or they may be incorporated into a CRC+.
It is important for these soft skills assessments to be measurable, reliable and valid if they are to be legally defensible. I recommend that you look at the following:
1. Personal Skills Assessments from ACT®
These assessments fall into three categories:
a) Talent
Prescreening, that identifies negative work attitudes and risky work behavior;
b) Fit
Benchmarks and sorts individuals based on occupational needs;
c) Performance
Provides coaching and development feedback to assist with career planning.
More information on these assessments are available at
2. SISTEM™ for Workforce Centers from Alchemy Systems
This automated process of delivering basic soft skills training comes in a bundle of 50 Job Readiness courses in 2 comprehensive packages: Workforce Basic and Workforce deluxe. Training may be delivered using either e-learning technology or on-site in groups of up to 32 users. The assessments are available in English and Spanish and no on-site trainer is required. Training is interactive with users submitting answers via hand-held devices. No computer skills are necessary, and the format is lively, fast-moving, and entertaining.
SISTEM includes a fully-automated online learning management system that provides reports to employers who then can assess their ROI on the training.
Alchemy provides hardware for on-site skills training. If training is required off-site (e.g. in a company setting), additional Alchemy equipment will be needed.
More information may be obtained from or from
31. What is the relationship between the CRC Consortium and the NOCC?
The CRC is funded within each state or by individual organizations. There is no funding on a national level. The CRCC web site and newsletter have been maintained and hosted through the generosity of one or two individuals. It was not realistic to expect this situation to continue indefinitely.
The National Organization for Career Credentialing (NOCC) is a non-profit corporation that focuses on informing and educating the public about career credentials. It is supported solely by public donations. Because the CRC is a career credential, the NOCC is interested in assisting with and enhancing the work of the Consortium. The NOCC therefore hosts not only its own web site but that of the CRC Consortium as well. Also, NOCC staff is dedicated to providing assistance with deployment of the CRC when asked, and to the maintenance and development of both the CRCC web site and newsletters.
Appendix B
Marketing Materials
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Appendix C
Web Connections
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Training Providers
KeyTrain/Thinking Media
WIN, Inc.
State Web Sites
North Carolina


Appendix D
Suggested Readings
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Thomas Freidman, The World Is Flat; Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2005
Robyn Meredith, The Elelphant and the Dragon: The Rise of India and China and What it Means to All of Us; Norton and Company, 2007
Antoine van Agtmael, The Emerging Markets Century: How a New Breed of World-class Companies is Overtaking the World ; Free Press, 2007
John Ralston Saul, The Collapse of Globalism--and the Reinvention of the World; Penguin, 2005
Robert Rosen, Global Literacies: Lessons on Business Leadership and National Cultures, Simon and Schuster, 2000
Harriet Franklin, The New Workforce: Five Sweeping Trends that will Shape your Company's Future, American Management Association, 2005
Shrock & Coscarelli, Criterion-Referenced Test Development, International Society for Performance Improvement, 2000
Daniel Pink, Free Agent Nation: How America's New Independent Workers are Transforming the Way We Live, Warner Books, 2001
Daniel Pink, Free Agent Nation: The Future of Working for Yourself, Warner Books, 2001
Richard Florida, The Rise of the Creative Class, Basic Books, 2002
Richard Florida, The Flight of the Creative Class: The New Global Competition for Talent, Basic Books, 2005
Rob Gifford, China Road: A Journey into the Future of a Rising Power, Random House, 2007
Fast Company
Fortune Small Business
Business Week
Workforce Management
The Economist

Education Week

NWA Newsletter

Ed-Week (on-line)

www.Inside Higher

NOCC Newsletter

Papers & Journals
Chronicle of Higher Education
The Wall Street Journal
The New York Times
© Bolin Enterprises 2008