New job skills test offered

By William P. Thompson

A new federally funded job skills assessment test is now available to Portales and Roosevelt County residents at the New Mexico Workforce Connection (formerly the One Stop Career Center) on FIrst Street in Portales. Trina Miller of the Eastern Plains Council of Governments told Roosevelt County Commissioners about the tests at a commission meeting Tuesday.

Miller said the tests, called “Work Keys” were developed by the same company who developed ACT tests which are used as admission tests at many colleges and universities. She said the Work Keys tests are administered at no cost to job seekers.

“The assessment is made up of three 45 minute tests,” Miller said. “applied math, reading for information and locating information. Certificates will start being issued in July, and based on the test scores, there will be bronze, silver and gold certificates.”

Miller said she has just begun to contact area businesses to tell them about the tests and she said she expects area businesses to look at the test scores as being important credentials for job seekers.

“The certificate will complement all other credentials like academic degrees,” she said. “For a military spouse entering the workforce after a long absence it will offer a good beginning for a resume.”

Miller’s task now is to go from business to business throughout the county and get employers introduced to the test. Marcos Martinez, operations manager for Mew Mexico TechNet, a non-profit organization which is responsible for distributing the tests throughout the state, said the test has only been available in Roosevelt County for the past 30 days and he too is wanting to get the word out about the tests.

“These assessments are different than other assessment tests out there,” Martinez said. “Most tests are academic. These tests are work skills tests. They were created by 18,000 employers.”

Martinez gave an example of what a series of test questions might consist of:

“A basic question might have you look at a year’s worth of electric bills and ask you to identify what month was the highest month and then it would get a little bit harder by asking you to give the average monthly bill,” he said. “If you wanted to be a bookkeeper, the test will show you if you have the skills to be a bookkeeper and if you don’t have the skills it will show you what skills you need to upgrade.”
Martinez said in communities where the tests have taken hold, it’s not just entry-level job seekers who are using the tests to gain employment.

“Professionals are using the test,” Martinez said. “We’ve had electrical engineers use the tests.”

Miller said the tests are funded out of the National Emergency Act. She said the Eastern Plains Council of Governments is the administrative arm of the Eastern Workforce Development Agency, a federally funded agency interested in increasing the workforce throughout eastern New Mexico.

Martinez said the agency hopes to compile 2,500 test scores from area job seekers so it can provide a work force “snapshot” of the types of skills available to businesses looking to relocate to the area.

• In other county commission news, commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to begin holding public meetings just once a month on the third Tuesday of each month. The commissioners had been meeting twice monthly. Commissioner Dennis Lopez suggested it was better to have one lengthy meeting per month rather than more frequent meetings which sometimes lasted less than an hour. The next meeting of county commissioners is 9 a.m. May 16.