Keys2Work initiative matches job seekers with available positions
Web site also employs written skills assessment by Jason Gallinger
Do educators and employers speak the same language? Some experts on education and the regional work force don’t think so.
Too many high school students graduate with substandard English and math skills, those experts say, or without adequate knowledge of where and how to find a job. But a Web site initiative known as Keys2Work is giving the experts a reason to hope.
In its most basic form, Keys2Work (http://www.keys2work.com) uses a written skills assessment to match job seekers with available positions. But experts say Keys2Work can function beyond a recruiting tool to help them measure the skills possessed by the region’s work force and to help job seekers identify skills they need to improve.
“It’s a good assessment tool for an individual to see where they stand in relation to the world of work,” said Richard Garland, executive director of Youth Works, a provider of job training to high school students and a partner in the Keys2Work initiative. “They can look at what their aspirations are and see if they need to do additional work.”
Other Keys2Work partners include the Center for Workforce Excellence, Workforce Connections, Goodwill Industries of Pittsburgh, the Pittsburgh Partnership, The Southwestern Pennsylvania Industrial Resource Center and the Allegheny Intermediate Unit. They have helped set up and provide access to Keys2Work.
About 40 local employers are using the system. Mellon Financial Corp., Eat’ Park Corp. and UPMC Health System are among them, according to David Mosey, Keys2-Work co-founder and chief technology officer. Mr. Mosey also is the founder and president of The Lyceum Group, a Downtown human resources and work force consulting firm.
Mr. Mosey said the initiative grew from the realization that true job skills aren’t always apparent through applications and resumes. Focusing on entry-level positions, Keys2Work compiles a database of open jobs and the skills necessary to fill them. Job seekers take a three-hour written assessment, which was developed by ACT Inc. and administered by Goodwill. Keys2Work then compares the results to the database.
That data, which is kept anonymously, can be compiled and used to measure the skills the work force possess, experts said.
“I don’t think we know what the skills levels are,” said Stephen Mitchell, director of Workforce Connections, which seeks to improve the region’s work force and opportunities.
“As long as you have an agreed upon metric for measuring and assessing skills, you have the basis for work force development.”
Job seekers can browse the Web site for information on companies, available positions and required skills, and the results of their assessments. They receive e-mail notifications of matches, and employers are also notified.
“The analogy that everybody understands is the comparison to the SAT,” Mr. Mosey said.
Like the SAT, Keys2Work has an academic element. The SAT lets students see if they’re ready for college, and Keys2Work’s assessment lets job seekers see if they’re ready to work.
“It allows individual students or workers to say, `Here’s where I am. What am I eligible for?’ “said Rob Rogers, executive director of the Center for Workforce Excellence, a work-force development group.
He said studies show the regional work force’s skill level is a cause for concern. One survey of 2,500 high school sophomores and seniors found that 10 percent scored below the lowest reading level, 43 percent in middle levels and 47 percent in the top levels, according to Mr. Rogers.
“What it says is that we’ve got some red flags,” he said.
Writing in the Allegheny Conference on Community Development 1998 Report, “Building Blocks for Regional Progress,” Jane Burger, director of policy and planning at the Grable Foundation, said surveys of local school curriculum showed students were getting too little education in advanced math and science. She said only 61 percent of graduating seniors completed first-year algebra.
“The problem is not our children, it’s what they’re being taught and how they’re being taught,” Ms. Burger wrote.
But Mr. Rogers and others said Keys2-Work can be an incentive for students to learn, because it shows what skills will land them a job and for how much money.
“It lays out a very accurate picture of what’s required to enter and succeed at those occupations, and it attaches dollar signs to it,” Mr. Rogers said.
Most of the jobs listed don’t require degrees, Mr. Mosey said, adding that the number of such jobs has multiplied with expansion of the service industry. Keys2-Work is particularly helpful to high school graduates who don’t plan to go to college or people coming off welfare, he said.
“In the tight labor market, those students and those people coming out of (organizations like Goodwill) are becoming more important to employers,” he said.
Keys2Work is free to job seekers, several thousand of whom have used it through the initiative’s partners and public schools in Pittsburgh and Allegheny County, Mr. Mosey said.
Keys2Work is like a “typical dot-com,” he said, subsisting on money from Workforce Connections and grants from The Heinz Endowment and the Grable Foundation. Eventually, the employers using the service will support it financially, he said, hopefully by sponsoring particular high schools.
With the connection between schools and employers, communication between the two would hopefully improve.
“It promotes a great means of a dialogue between the employers and the educators,” Mr. Rogers said.