The Honorable the Members of the Board of Regents


James A. Kadamus


Full Board


Work Readiness Credential


January 24, 2005




Implementation of Regents Policy


Goals 1 and 2






In February, the Regents will hear from members of the State Workforce Investment Board (SWIB) about a multi-state effort to define and measure work readiness and to recognize individuals who have those skills.  On January 4, the Chancellor, Regent Cofield and the Commissioner met with representatives of the SWIB to discuss their concern that a work readiness credential could create an incentive to drop out of high school.  SWIB leaders responded by reaffirming support for the high school diploma as the minimum credential, with the work readiness designation as an endorsement to the diploma.  There are remaining issues of interest to both the SWIB and Department, which concern the validity of a work readiness credential.  Key policy questions to facilitate your discussion with SWIB members in February are:


1.      How should Regents universal foundation skills/Equipped for the Future (EFF) work readiness skills be assessed and recognized in New York State? 

2.      Should eligibility limits be placed on the EFF work readiness credential in New York State so that it is not a disincentive for completing a high school diploma, IEP diploma, or the high school equivalency diploma?  Should it be an adult credential for out-of-school youth and adults?

3.      Should a Regents endorsement for skill attainment be developed for the high school diploma, IEP diploma, and the high school equivalency diploma, similar to the Regents endorsement for career and technical education?

4.      What systemic efforts are needed to ensure that all youth and adults have these critical foundation skills?


The following members of the State Workforce Investment Board will join the Regents in the discussion:


·        Richard A. Calo, Vice President, Human Resources, IBM Technology Group (chair of the SWIB)

·        Gregory Moreland, Governmental Affairs Manager, Ford Motor Company 

·        Paul Cole, Secretary-Treasurer, New York State AFL-CIO

·        Sherryl Weems, Director of the Buffalo Educational Opportunity Center


Gerard Pierce, Vice President for Human Resources, Wegmans Food, Inc. will submit advice and recommendations to the Board of Regents in writing.


The attached background material supports your discussion on the EFF work readiness credential and the wider implications for the University of the State of New York (USNY) on February 7, 2005.   Your views regarding the credential will guide Commissioner Mills’ participation at the March 10, 2005 and subsequent SWIB meetings.





Implementation of a National Work Readiness Credential in New York State



For over two years, the New York State Workforce Investment Board (SWIB) has been working with parallel boards in New Jersey, Florida and Washington State to pilot and implement a voluntary, national work readiness credential. Together, these four states have committed over $2 million in workforce and foundation funding toward this initiative. The SWIB is now at a critical juncture in its deliberations: how to implement the credential in New York State. This paper provides background information for discussion at the February 7, 2005 Board of Regents meeting.


What is the intended purpose of the Equipped for the Future (EFF) work readiness credential? 

The EFF work readiness credential started as an initiative of the National Institute for Literacy, a subset of the U.S. Department of Education.  It is intended to be a national credential to assess and certify that individual job seekers have a solid foundation in skills and abilities they will need to succeed in entry-level work in the 21st century workplace.   It is intended to be voluntary and portable across states.  It is not intended to compete with or detract from the high school diploma, the high school equivalency diploma, or other national certificates or credentials.  The credential will help the workforce development system in expanding strategies that support the attainment of these skills by youth and adults.  These skills will aid youth and adults in successful transition into further education and/or the workplace. 


Who is sponsoring this initiative?

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the national sponsor for development of the EFF work readiness credential.  The number of states and other partners is growing beyond the original four investor states and the National Institute for Literacy (NIFL).  They now include: Rhode Island and the District of Columbia.  Project advisors and partners include:  the National Association of Manufacturing (NAM), the National Governors’ Association, the National Retail Federation, Verizon, Center for Workforce Development, Institute for Educational Leadership, and the National Association of Workforce Boards.  The AFL-CIO has been a strong proponent of this initiative.


Are there related national initiatives?

Yes.  There are a number of national assessments and curricula that have been developed to meet work readiness skills. They vary in the range of skills assessed and how. These include the Comprehensive Adult Student Assessment System (CASAS), the Career Readiness Certificate from the American Council on Testing (ACT) which uses WorkKeys to assess work readiness skills, and the National Occupational Competency Testing Institute (NOCTI) Workplace Readiness Assessment.  Work readiness skills have also been incorporated into career and technical education instruction and assessed by national occupational certificates, including Automotive Youth Educational Systems (A-YES) and the National Retail Federation’s Customer Service and Retail Sales Certificate.  The use of the assessments and credentials varies considerably across states.  Michigan’s legislature is currently debating whether to use a work readiness assessment in combination with a college entrance test, as a replacement for the current high school achievement test in order to assess college and work readiness of all high school students.  If the change is adopted, it would add Michigan to a small but growing group of states that have augmented their own high school tests with measures of work readiness and college preparedness, including the use of voluntary assessments.


What skills are targeted for measurement by the EFF work readiness credential?

The credential is intended to assess 10 broad sets of skills identified by businesses in participating states as important to success in entry-level work.  EFF identified skills needed to succeed in the adult roles of parent, worker and citizen and they were prioritized through cross-industry business forums that were conducted in the initial four sponsoring states.  Attachment 1 outlines the work readiness skills that will be assessed by the national credential. To earn a credential, individuals must be able to successfully demonstrate the following entry-level tasks:


Communication skills: speak so others can understand; listen actively; read with understanding; and observe critically.

Interpersonal skills: cooperate with others; and resolve conflict and negotiate.

Decision-making skills: use math to solve problems and communicate; and solve problems.

Lifelong learning skills: take responsibility for learning; and effectively use information and communications technology.


As Attachment 1 shows, these tasks are consistent with SCANS skills (Secretary’s Commission on the Attainment of Necessary Skills)—the national commission appointed by the Secretary of Labor in 1990 determined necessary for all young people to have in order to succeed in the world of work.  Businesses often call them “soft skills,” or general skills. 


Do the EFF skill standards align with Regents learning standards?

Yes. The skill areas to be measured by the credential are directly aligned with universal foundation skills in Standard 3a of the Career Development and Occupational Studies (CDOS) learning standards.  Attachment 2 shows this alignment.  Universal foundation skills are considered essential for all youth to succeed in high school and in further education.  The Regents learning standards recognize there is a continuum of skill attainment and recognize three levels: elementary, intermediate, and commencement. These are described in Attachment 3.


How are Regents universal foundation skills currently assessed?

Universal foundation skills are measured by specific questions in these Regents exams, which are given to all students: English Language Arts, Mathematics, Living Environment, U.S. History and Government and Global History and Geography. Career and technical education programs approved by SED specifically incorporate and assess universal foundation skills as part of instruction.  The five process strands that are part of the PreK-8 math learning standards that were adopted by the Board of Regents in January 2005 directly support attainment of universal foundation skills.


However, students, teachers, businesses, or education and training providers cannot easily or independently assess the attainment of Regents universal foundation skills.  Since existing assessments measure two learning standards at once, it is not clear that failure to answer a given answer correctly is the result of not having the universal foundation skills or the academic content.  To address this gap, SED’s career and technical education team is completing a pilot with Syracuse University to identify a valid and reliable assessment of universal foundation skills.  The first phase piloted multiple-choice questions with over 3,500 students in schools across the State.  The second phase developed database test questions to measure a student's ability to process and use information to solve problems using documents and data.  The database questions were administered in fall 2003 to over 1,500 students in 35 school districts across the State.  This pilot, when completed in early 2005, will be analyzed and potentially used as the foundation for a voluntary, stand-alone assessment of Regents universal foundation skills that meets SED requirements for validity, reliability, and high technical quality. 


How are Regents universal foundation skills currently recognized or certified in New York State?

There is no Regents endorsement on a high school diploma, high school equivalency diploma, or IEP diploma for students outside of career and technical education programs that would signify attainment of Regents universal foundation skills.  The Regents technical endorsement for successful career and technical education students signifies the completion of diploma requirements and the attainment of both universal foundation skills and technical occupational skills.  This endorsement is voluntary and only awarded after the student meets high school diploma standards.


Why are these skills becoming critical to business success in New York State?

A shift to a knowledge-based economy has accelerated the need to supplement strong academic skills with “soft” or general skills involving learning, reasoning, communication, general problem-solving, and learning how to learn.  Most new entry-level positions are being created in business services, education, health care and office jobs, which require high levels of human interaction and personalized responses to people’s wants and needs.  Broader and more general skills are also required because of the spread of “high performance work systems.”  (Anthony Carnevale, Standards for What? The Economic Roots of K-16 Reform)  


Business leaders on the State Workforce Investment Board say that the need to assess and provide these skills to all job seekers--youth and adults--is urgent.  A common perception among employers is that academic preparedness does not necessarily equal work readiness, and that Regents examinations represent content area mastery, not the foundation skills necessary for entry-level work.


Local workforce surveys of employers also underscore the importance of the skills to business success in New York. A growing number of local chambers of commerce and local workforce investment boards are considering the development of a local work readiness credential. North Country, Monroe, Oneida-Herkimer-Madison, Chautauqua, Oyster Bay, and Tompkins are some of the regions that have begun developing their own local certificates because of the pressing need. 


The potential demand from youth and adults in New York State is great and only expected to grow.   Implementation planning will need to address capacity, access, funding limitations, and delivery in a state like New York.  One option for consideration is a voluntary on-line assessment and e-learning program for work readiness skills.  Promising models for on-line assessment and learning have emerged in the last year, including the College Board’s on-line SAT preparation program and the National Retail Federation’s customer service and retail sales certificate.


What are the key issues?


1.       The growing importance of work readiness skills to student and business success in New York State.  There is a growing consensus that the EFF work readiness skills and the Regents universal foundation skills are essential to youth and adults for success in employment, further education, and adult roles as parents, citizens, and community members. The State Workforce Investment Board has twice affirmed not only that these skills are important, but that the skills identified in the EFF Work Readiness Credential are essential for entry-level work in New York State.


2.       Alignment with a high school diploma or high school equivalency diploma.  The State Workforce Investment Board supports the Regents efforts to maintain high academic standards and ensure that all students stay in school and achieve a high school diploma.  There is debate on how the EFF credential should be implemented in New York State so that it is not seen as an incentive for students to leave high school or adult GED preparation programs prematurely.  Some members strongly argue that the credential could be implemented as an additional tool for encouraging students to complete a secondary education.   Members have also made distinctions between policies for in-school youth and policies for out-of-school youth and adults who could strongly benefit from a work readiness credential to show employers attainment of specific skills that are important to business success in the State.  Proposals for discussion by the Board of Regents include: 


·        Adult credential--make this an adult credential, available only to those over age 18;

·        Diploma requirement--students must have a high school diploma or the equivalent or be working toward a diploma to be eligible;

·        Issue to youth once they meet diploma requirements--issue the EFF work readiness credential to those under age 18 only in conjunction with, or an endorsement to, a high school diploma or to an individual working toward a high school equivalency diploma.

·        Expand SED efforts to make the high school diploma, IEP diploma, and high school equivalency diploma reflect skill attainment--SED would work aggressively with business, workforce and other State agency partners to ensure that a high school diploma, IEP diploma, or high school equivalency diploma represents skill attainment.  This could be accomplished by developing a voluntary assessment that meets SED’s standards for high technical quality, reliability and validity.  A Regents endorsement for universal foundation skills, similar to the voluntary technical endorsement for career and technical education, could be developed for the high school diploma, IEP diploma, and high school equivalency diploma.  SED would comprehensively work to redouble its efforts to ensure that all youth and adults have Regents universal foundation skills.  The EFF work readiness credential and other similar credentials would be available for those individuals who have left school and are not pursuing a diploma or the equivalent. 


3.       Pass/fail certificate or aggregate test score that shows degree of skill attainment.

Partner states have already endorsed the idea of a “work readiness credential” that certifies attainment of foundation skills on a pass/fail basis.  Many business leaders and members of the State Workforce Investment Board support a pass/fail approach that shows that the student has met a minimum foundation of skill attainment. Another option that has been discussed is the idea of an aggregate score because of the difficulty of establishing one valid, national cut-off score.  Supporters of this approach point to the wide diversity in skill requirements across entry-level jobs in New York and across the nation, and the fast-paced restructuring of occupations.  They cite Scholastic Aptitude Test and college requirements for admission as a potential model.  Here, each college sets criteria for acceptable SAT scores, based on local and fast-changing requirements.  Another option that could be raised for State Workforce Investment Board consideration might be three levels of skill attainment reflecting the three levels of universal foundation skills identified in Regents learning standards. 


Are there other issues of concern?


1.      Does the credential align with SED technical quality, validity, and reliability standards? 

It is not clear at this time whether the EFF test design will yield a national credential that meets rigorous SED test standards.  A complete and accurate assessment by SED may not be possible until the longitudinal validity study is completed after the test begins to be used in March 2006.  The contractors developing the assessments for the EFF Work Readiness Credential have assured partner states that the assessments used for the EFF Work Readiness Credential will meet the applicable Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing and other legal requirements surrounding the use of a credential in an employment setting.   


2.      If the assessment can meet SED test development standards, in what ways could it be used relative to a high school credential? Assuming that test development standards can be met and verified by SED, how the test could be used to assess and recognize skills for youth and adults would need to be explored.


                                                                        `                                               Attachment 2


Cross-walk of the Equipped for the Future (EFF) Work Readiness Skills and Regents Universal Foundation Skills (CDOS Learning Standard 3a)


EFF Work Readiness Skills                                              Universal Foundation Skills


Acquire and Use Information                                               Managing Information

Basic Skills: Listening & Speaking


Use Technology                                                                    Technology



Use Systems                                                                         Systems



Work With Others                                                                  Interpersonal Qualities



Know How to Learn                                                              Personal Qualities

                                                                                                Interpersonal Skills



Responsibility                                                                        Personal Qualities



Integrity                                                                                   Personal Qualities



Self-Management                                                                 Personal Qualities



Allocate Resources                                                              Managing Resources



Solve Problems                                                                     Thinking Skills

                                                                                                Personal Qualities