Jeff Curley

The Marshfield Chamber of Commerce Luncheon, Monday April 26, hosted dozens of businesses and chamber members for a presentation on ACT WorkKeys and its use at Marshfield High School. 

“WorkKeys is an assessment for kids who aren’t going to be college-bound or who don’t want to take the ACT,” said High School Principal Jeff Curley. “The test is around $33 and the school does cover the cost for students who want to take it.”

Craig Hurst, an eight-year English teacher at the high school proctors the tests for students in his applied communications course. 

“Applied communications is a career-focused senior English class,” Hurst explained. “Students focus on resumes, cover letters, mock interviews and get real world experience so the WorkKeys exam is just another angle of that.”

According to Hurst, WorkKeys is specifically a work-based test separated into three parts, math, literacy and workplace documents. The basic, midlevel questions have been proven to gauge what a student may excel in. Marshfield had 5/11 students score platinum, the highest certificate for the exam.

“Our 5 platinum scores put us at one of the top in the state to produce that,” said Curley. “Our kids are different and that’s the reason that we’re here, our kids are amazing.” 

“The thing I like about this test is, if someone’s a good student you’ll expect them to get a higher score but that’s not always a guarantee,” said Hurst. “Kids who may be more mechanically minded or who don’t particularly score well in traditional tests, they can score really well on this. For some kids, their GPA may not be so good or this score is the only positive thing on their resume, and it shows the level of knowledge they have and how much they could potentially demonstrate that in the workplace.”

Carthage Water and Electric Plant is a large utility company that requires the test prior to hiring to find people who are ready to work on day one. Finding out the results for this exam and the attributes an employee has prior to hiring can be a big benefit for employee and employer.

“This tells them the information they really want to know,” Hurst added. “Is this going to be somebody worth sticking around and training? Many employees who test well on WorkKeys will show proficiency in the field and tend to advance once hired.”

With the growth of Marshfield, Hurst and Curley reiterate the importance of preparing exiting seniors for the workforce, should they decide against college. According to Hurst, it’s also a confidence booster for students who have a harder time with standardized tests.

“Here’s something where we can see value beyond what these students are doing here in class,” he said. “If you have kids who are getting platinum, that’s a pretty big deal and could help direct them to a good job right out of high school.”

Hurst and Curley are calling for businesses in Marshfield and Webster County to look into recognizing the WorkKeys scores and using them in their hiring processes so the school can increase interest in the value of taking the test. According to Curley, the $33 cost is worth the risk when you get an employee that scores well because it eliminates repeating the strenuous interview process. Theoretically, if enough businesses in Marshfield recognized the WorkKeys score in their hiring process, these test results would be as essential as the ACT score is to college applicants. 

“If this is recognized in our community, it’s easy for kids to see why we’re doing it and allows us to get more students those credentials prior to entering the workforce,” said Curley. “If I can prove there’s a need for it, it will be available in every senior class… but there has to be a need for it. I’d like for businesses to research this test and see if this could apply to you and if it does share it back with us so it gives us a conversation piece to say hey, these businesses in Marshfield are places you could potentially work… Obviously, as our community grows we want our kids to be working here.” 

Curley explained that even if students do go to college but later decide it’s not for them, these test results provide an alternative career path. Which is why it’s important to get as many as students as possible interested in taking WorkKeys. 

“This generation wants to be paid well, want to keep their phone in their hand and they want to know they have to work all day,” Curley added. “I would like to help however we can to open doors for kids to get higher paying jobs right out of school, should they decide against college.”

Next luncheon for the Marshfield Chamber of Commerce will be at noon on May 24, featuring guest speaker Kyle Whittaker from the University of Missouri Extension Center in Webster County. For more information on the Marshfield Chamber of Commerce luncheons, visit discovermarshfield.com.

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