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Tuesday, September 21, 2010 - 11:22am

'Work Ready,' But Few Jobs

Georgia has certified 56 counties as being "Work Ready," but the designation -- and the money that follows -- doesn't always lead to new jobs.

Work Ready is designed to connect workers and jobs.

So far this year, 45,975 Georgians have had their job skills evaluated and earned a Work Ready certificate.

But only 3,782 -- or about 8% of them -- subsequently got jobs.

The numbers look better if you don't include high school students and others who take the test but who are not necessarily looking for a job.

About 16,419 actually unemployed Georgians became Work Ready certified, making the success rate about 25%.

The prospects for job seekers are even bleaker in rural areas, where it's hard to find employers who recognize the certificate.

In coastal McIntosh County, there's just one company that recognizes the certificate -- and it's not hiring.

"This is something in the early stages, says Wally Orrel, who heads McIntosh County's development authority. "But as companies understand what profiles they're looking for for employees, this is where the Work Ready will come into play."

Using stimulus money, Work Ready has given about $1.4 million to job-seekers on pre-paid debit cards to help with job search expenses.

The officials in charge of the program, which also relies on state funds, say the effort is worth it.

"It's about 25%," says Debra Lyons, director of the Work Ready program. "In a very difficult economy, that's 25% of people who we know are unemployed who've gotten jobs."

The 56 counties certified as "Work Ready" have demonstrated that they have met educational and other goals aimed at enticing companies to locate or expand.