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State test connects education and business

Assessment gauges how well students are prepared for workforce

posted Feb. 1, 2017 12:00 a.m. (CDT)
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by / Elizabeth Dohms. bio | email

Chad Steinmetz was a little taken aback by how challenging he found the math portion of the state’s ACT WorkKeys assessment required for junior high school students. 

To become more familiar with the exam, the math-teacher-turned-principal of Bloomer High School took the sample test as part of the first-ever WorkKeys conference held at Chippewa Valley Technical College Tuesday.

The conference gathered almost 200 educators and business people from across the state, introducing them to the state’s assessment requirement imple-mented two years ago. 

“At CVTC, we view ourselves as the bridge between the K-12 sector and the workforce, so it only made sense to us to bring everyone together today to talk about this new resource for gauging workforce readiness,” said Julie Furst-Bowe, vice president of instruction.

State Superintendent Tony Evers, the keynote speaker kicking off Tuesday’s conference, said the assessment measures soft skills and academics. Students who perform well on the test can also earn nationally recognized certificates to show their preparedness for work. 

Evers said in 2016, 92 percent of juniors earned a certificate, with 31 percent reaching the highest gold and platinum levels — on par with high scores on the ACT exams. 

“The WorkKeys system is designed to help businesses match the skills of employees to their requirements for the positions that they have,” Evers said.

Steinmetz, who attended the conference Tuesday along with one of the school’s counselors, said it helped participants understand the purpose of the WorkKeys exam, which tests students’ preparedness for the workforce by gauging their skill levels in three categories: applied math, reading for information and locating information (such as the PSI on a pressure gauge graphic).

The math portion, for example, checks to see whether students can answer questions ranging from simple math problems to using formulas to find the volume and area of three-dimensional objects. 

“The stronger we make the transition to post-secondary institutions and employers, the better job we’re going to do preparing students for college and career readiness,” Steinmetz said.

The ACT WorkKeys assessment is taken by juniors in addition to the ACT with a writing exam, often required for college entry. 

Juniors will take the ACT with the writing exam this year on Tuesday, Feb. 28, and the WorkKeys exam on Wednesday, March 1. 

Contact: 715-833-9206,, @EDohms_LT on Twitter