County companies, workers embrace new employment retention program

MHCC Chief Operating Office Karl Hertz greets Kendra Roark, a receptionist at patient access, who was hired a couple of months ago. Hertz hopes the ACT work ready program could attract applicants to entry-level positions at the hospital.

Imagine you run a small local business. Your turnover rate is insanely high, and you can’t seem to find the right applicant for the job. Now imagine you’re trying to enter the workforce or learn more about basic skills applicable to any position.

A new county-wide program could help you out in either of these scenarios.

The ACT work ready program is a national one that helps employers identify the strengths and weaknesses of potential applicants. The program has over 26,000 businesses across the nation on board, and the number is Converse County is picking up as both employers and employees begin to focus on a new normal in a post-pandemic world.

When applicants go through the program, they take a three-part test that gauges their proficiency in applied math, graphic literacy, and finding and analyzing information presented in the work place. Participants are then given a bronze, silver, gold or platinum score in each category.

Then they receive a ACT work keys national career certificate, which displays their score.

When a business decides to sign on to the program, it means that they’ll accept a copy of applicants’ certificates along with their resume.

Officials of Converse County, Glenrock, and Douglas have agreed to become a ACT work ready community. This means that they’ve set goals for boosting employment rates and reducing turnover rates. The goals are set by the national ACT program based on a community’s population and size.

They also offer scholarships to help people pay for their first test.

Converse County School District Superintendent and The Enterprise board member Paige Fenton-Hughes suggested the program to county officials after she was appointed to a committee designed to explore different work force development option.

After local government gave Fenton-Hughes the green light on the program, she and the committee worked with the county and took the next steps, contracting Yellow Horse Consulting owner Hannah Swanbom to oversee the program and work with the county to help reach the national program goals.

“We’re fortunate to get somebody with her background and skillset and education,” Fenton-Hughes said.

Swanbom said she’s excited for the program to go public.

“And we’re really excited to offer this service and work with employers as well as with folks looking to get back into the workforce or change careers.”

According to Swanbom, several businesses in the county have agreed to be apart of the program. These include Memorial Hospital of Converse County (MHCC), Glenrock Health Center, the Glenrock and Douglas school districts, Advanced Animal Care (AAC), Dave Johnson Power Plant, The LaBonte, The Enterprise, the KKTY radio station and the Douglas Budget.

MHCC Chief Operating Officer Karl Hertz mentioned he hopes being a part of the program can help them attract applicants to entry-level positions.

“Areas where they don’t need special clinical training or areas where we can train them on the job,” he explained.

He also anticipates the program could help high school graduates get ready for the work force.

“Not to sound like an old man,” he chuckled, “but things that would’ve been naturally expected in my generation aren’t necessarily what the younger work group is bringing into the workforce.

So having them been exposed to some of those expectations before they apply for the job helps us know that they’ll be a good fit.”

AAC Office Manager Kim Smylie mentioned they haven’t had any applicants that’ve gone through the program yet, but that they anticipate success with it.

“We hope to bring in employees with skills and motivation and are eager to learn,” Smylie said.

Douglas City Administrator Jonathan Teichert explained the city was on board with the program from the beginning, and they hope it increases the workforce in the county.

“We do a good job here, and Wyoming in particular, of training Colorado’s and Utah’s work force,” he said. “I’m hoping this (program) would allow our workforce to stay here, and fill the jobs that we have locally.”

Glenrock Town Clerk Tammy Taylor, who also has a seat on The Enterprise board, also praised the program.

“It just seemed like a year ago that everybody was sitting on the enterprise board thinking ‘can we really do this?’ And now, its really moving,” she exclaimed with excitement shining through her voice.

According to Swanbom, the program can also benefit current employees.

“Employers don’t have to go re-hire as often because they can keep skilled employees,” she said. “It also gives employers an idea of where to deploy existing employees.”

According to Hannah, a website for the program that will be linked on the Converse County website is being built now. This will give people clear steps to take to join the program.

Certificates from the program that are acquired in Wyoming will be accepted at any employer in the nation that’s a part of the program, according to Swanbom.

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