The Honorable the Members of the Board of Regents


James A. Kadamus




Work Readiness Credential


December 21, 2004




Implementation of Regents Policy


Goals 1 and 2






On January 13, 2005, the New York State Workforce Investment Board (SWIB) will decide how to implement a national work readiness credential in New York State.  Commissioner Mills, who is a permanent statutory member of the SWIB, has expressed concern that the work readiness credential not be a disincentive for completing a high school diploma or the equivalent.  At its November 18, 2004 meeting, the SWIB unanimously voted to postpone any final decisions until after the Regents were consulted. 


The key policy questions 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 attached background material supports your discussion on the work readiness credential in January.  Your views regarding the credential will guide Commissioner Mills’ participation at the January 13 SWIB meeting.



Implementation of a National Work Readiness Credential in New York State


For over a year, 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, the Departments of Labor in these four states have committed over $2 million toward this initiative. The SWIB is now at a critical juncture in its deliberations: how to implement the credential in New York State. They will make these decisions at the next meeting on January 13, 2005.  This paper provides background information for discussion at the Regents EMSC-VESID Committee meeting in January 2005.


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

The EFF work readiness credential 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 has agreed to become the national sponsor for development of the EFF work readiness credential.  The number of states and other partners is growing beyond the original four states.  They now include: Rhode Island, Utah, the National Association of Manufacturing, the National Urban League, and the cities of Washington, D.C. and Chicago, Illinois. The National Governors’ Association, the National Retail Federation, Verizon, and the National Association of Workforce Boards also support the initiative.  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 (YES) and the National Retail Federation’s Retail Sales Certificate.  The use of the assessments and credentials varies considerably across states.  Michigan’s legislature is currently debating whether to use ACT WorkKeys, together with the ACT college-entrance examination, 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, American History and Global Studies. Career and technical education programs approved by SED specifically incorporate and assess universal foundation skills as part of instruction. 


Students, teachers, businesses, or education and training providers cannot easily or independently assess the attainment of Regents universal foundation skills.  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 January 2005, will be analyzed and potentially used as the foundation for a voluntary, stand-alone assessment that meets SED requirements for validity, reliability, and high technical quality. 


How are these 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, communi-cating, 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 work readiness skills are separate skills apart from those measured by the high school diploma.  An informal survey just conducted by the Business Council of New York State found strong interest and support for the delivery and assessment of work readiness skills by business leaders who are members of the Council.    About half of the business leaders responding supported an assessment score similar to the College Board’s Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) and half supported a credential or diploma endorsement that would assure a business that the individual job seeker has attained work readiness/universal foundation skills. 


Local workforce surveys of employers also underscore the importance of the skills to business success in New York.  Because of the need, a growing number of local chambers of commerce and local workforce investment boards are considering the development of a local work readiness credential.


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 retail sales certificate.


What issues are being discussed at the State Workforce Investment Board?


1.       The growing importance of work readiness skills to student and business success in New York State.  There is 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.


2.       Alignment with a high school diploma or high school equivalency diploma.  There is SWIB consensus that this credential should not detract from Regents efforts to raise standards and ensure that all students stay in school and achieve a high school diploma.  There is debate on whether it would serve as an incentive for students to leave high school or adult GED preparation programs prematurely. Proposals that could be discussed at the January 13, 2005 meeting 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.       Credential or aggregate test score.

Other partner states have endorsed the idea of a “work readiness credential” that certifies attainment of foundation skills.  There is strong sentiment by many members of the SWIB for a credential. Other business leaders support the idea of an aggregate score because of the difficulty of establishing a valid, national cut-off score given the diversity of entry-level jobs and the fast-paced restructuring of occupations.  They point to the manner in which the SAT scored as a model.  Another option might be three levels of skill attainment reflecting the three levels of universal foundation skills identified in Regents learning standards.


Are there other issues?


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 may not be possible until the longitudinal validity study is completed after the test begins to be used in March 2006. 


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