The Career Readiness Certificate: An Economic Success Story

by Barbara Bolin

Last year, I shared with you information about the Career Readiness Certificate, a portable skills credential based on three WorkKeys assessments (The Career Readiness Certificate: New Resource for Job Seekers and Employers , Career Convergence, October 2005). I am pleased to bring you an update on this initiative, and there is a great deal to tell!

In the first article, I included a matrix showing the Career Readiness Certificate Consortium that included 37 states, with 5 states issuing certificates, 11 in the process, and 21 states interested in the credential. Because the Career Readiness Certificate was only initiated in 2004 in Virginia and six surrounding states, this matrix represented terrific progress. The present situation is now even more impressive. The Consortium now includes 43 states and there has been significant movement within the matrix!

  • During the last year, many of the states that were merely interested in the Career Readiness Certificate Consortium have moved into the "In Progress" column. This has occurred for several reasons-- i) State legislation mandates implementation, ii) the governor has indicated support for deployment, iii) community colleges and schools (either statewide or locally) have adopted it, or iv) Workforce Investment Boards (WIBs) and other organizations at the local level have decided that the Career Readiness Certificate is a powerful economic development tool that certifies the skills of people of all ages.
  • Several states that were in the process of deploying the Career Readiness Certificate have now completed that process and many thousands of Career Readiness Certificates are now being issued in eleven (11) states. Present numbers do not include results from several key states but my numbers indicate that more than 46,000 Certificates have been issued.

The speed of adoption and issuance of the Career Readiness Certificate is increasing dramatically. For example, in one 8-county workforce region in southern Tennessee, 431 Career Readiness Certificate were issued in a 10 week period from August to October, and across North Carolina, more than 1400 certificates were issued between June 1 and September 30. To accompany this rapid deployment of the Career Readiness Certificate there has been an acceptance of the credential by employers, and this is a key component of its success. For example, in that 8-county region, more than 30 employers have added the Career Readiness Certificate as a requirement in their job orders.

The current Consortium matrix is shown below.

CRC deployed
CRC in progress
Interested in CRC





North Dakota



South Carolina

New York







North Carolina

West Virginia







Rhode Island




New Mexico


New Jersey



















11 States

16 States

16 States

So why is the Career Readiness Certificate being adopted and issued so quickly and extensively across the country, and to people of all generations?

The US economy is under threat in many ways. While thousands bemoan the loss of jobs overseas, the reality is that the need for workers with new skill sets demanded by emerging occupations is increasing. There are great opportunities for people of all ages who can demonstrate that they can apply learning and that they have the ability to learn quickly and efficiently, often on the job. A new term: trainability--has entered the vernacular to describe this new requirement.

For too long, we have put our faith in academic credentials alone, and they are valuable and in some cases essential. Too often, however, they are an indication of what a person knows and not what a person can do. This is the gap that the Career Readiness Certificate fills. While the Career Readiness Certificate was never intended as a replacement for existing credentials (high school diploma, associate degree, etc.), it is unquestioningly a powerful complement to them. The Career Readiness Certificate is particularly useful for recently dislocated older workers who have no other credential, and for CTE students who have skills that are often overlooked by employers.

The WorkKeys system has been appreciated and adopted widely over the last 14 years. Because results are legally defensible, easily understood, and meet federal requirements like EEOC and ADA, employers feel confident in using WorkKeys as part of the hiring or promotion process. The strength of the Career Readiness Certificate, (based on three WorkKeys assessments) lies in the simplicity and efficiency of the credentialing process. Employers and job seekers can be certain that basic skills that indicate trainability have been certified by the credential. In most states, the Career Readiness Certificate has a total cost of between $30 and $45, and training is specific, computer-based, and quick. A person can take the assessments at his/her convenience without having to attend classes, and a WorkKeys score that is no older than 5 years may be used in the Career Readiness Certificate.

The Career Readiness Certificate is available at three levels as shown below.

Skill Area

Reading for Information




Applied Mathematics




Locating Information




In most states, assessments are available through the local community college or at the one-stop career center. The three assessments are also now being given to high school students across the country. In the case of clients of the one-stop career center and for high school students, the cost of the assessments is covered by federal and state funds. In other cases, employers meet the cost as part of the hiring or promotion process, and of course, any individual may take sole responsibility for the costs.

More information on the Career Readiness Certificate may be found at www.crcconsortium.org. Please contact me or your state CRC contact for more information.

Dr. Barbara Bolin is Managing Director and CEO of Bolin Enterprises, LLC, a company that specializes in consulting on economic development. From 2003-2005, while serving as the Governor's Special Advisor for Workforce Development in Virginia, Barbara developed the Career Readiness Certificate and formed a multi-state consortium for development of the WorkKeys-based portable skills credential. From 1999-2002, Barbara was Director of the Michigan Department of Career Development under Governor John Engler (R-MI). Dr. Bolin was previously the Associate Vice President for Workforce Education at Austin Community College, and she was a training, development, and evaluation specialist in Dell University at Dell Computer Corporation for four years. Barbara has many years of experience teaching mathematics, science and statistics at both the high school and college levels. Dr. Bolin is currently the Executive Director of the Career Readiness Certificate Consortium of 43 states. She may be reached at www.bolinenterprises.com, 804-310-2552 (cell), 517-371-4444.

Printer-Friendly Version