ACT Study: Work Readiness Standards and Benchmarks

By on June 5, 2013
Work Readiness Standards and Benchmarks

I don’t know if you caught the latest report published by ACT, Inc. called “Work Readiness Standards and Benchmarks.” If you are interested in talent development, this study will give you additional resource information about possible career paths for students and adults exploring potential jobs and careers. Information is gleaned from over 19,000 job specific profiles developed through authorized ACT Profilers. Yes, just like I am in Missouri. As described by the US Office of Personnel Management, the ACT job profiling analysis includes a systematic procedure for gathering, documenting, and analyzing information about the content, context, and requirements of a job.

I found the study an interesting start to a very important discussion that is needed regarding our future talent pool. How will we know if our talent pool is ready if we don’t adopt work readiness standards and benchmarks? The ACT study defines Work Ready as when “an individual possesses the foundational skills needed to minimally qualify for specific occupations as determined through a job analysis or occupational profile…”

The study also suggests that the Work Ready skills that are reviewed include both foundational cognitive skills and noncognitive soft skills. This certainly makes sense to those of us that have worked with companies in finding and developing workforce talent. Besides the rudimentary skills of math and reading (both instructions or graphic diagrams) that deal with problem solving and critical thinking, companies are looking for those people who have the appropriate personal characteristics and behavioral skills to fit into the existing talent pool. Measuring both individual skills and employer skill requirements using a common language found in ACT’s WorkKeys system will help solve the long-standing problem of skill mismatch and gaps by aligning secondary postsecondary curriculum with skills that meet employers’ needs.

When thinking about Work Readiness, we need to look beyond the day after graduation or loss of a job. Everyone needs to understand the factors that are important in establishing readiness for success throughout a lifetime. Work Readiness benchmarks target skill levels that an individual should aim for in order to be considered work ready for any occupation.

Please take the time to read the study ( and check out the proposed standards and benchmarks for approximately 1,100 specific occupations at

If you are interested in discussing this further, please comment on this blog or contact me directly at

About Jim Duane

Jim has more than 30 years of experience in the workforce development field. At St. Louis Community College’s Workforce Solutions Group, Jim is the manager and lead WorkKeys job task and skill profiler for the WorkKeys Solution Center. Throughout his 10 plus years as a WorkKeys Job Profiler, Jim has worked with numerous large, medium and small size companies in the aerospace/defense, beverage, cement manufacturing, construction, drug manufacturing, electric utility, healthcare, hospital, petroleum-chemical processing, and sporting goods industries. His team has conducted approximately 50,000 WorkKeys assessments for companies, organized labor, schools, and organizations. He has also presented at national and regional conferences, chaired regional workforce resource committees, and conducted numerous local, statewide and national focus groups around workforce development. He has received the Missouri Governor's Award for Excellence in Leadership in workforce development. This award was based on the Malcolm Baldridge quality management criteria.

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