Local business leaders are still pushing to get Jackson County registered as a “Certified Work Ready Community.” About 200 businesses need to sign up for that to happen.

“It’s important to do this, even if you’re not hiring right now,” Lara Vermillion, president of the Blue Springs Chamber of Commerce, told business owners and others at a recent chamber gathering.

Companies that sign up agree to use potential employees’ scores on the ACT WorkKeys Assessment, a measure of skills in applied math, graphic literacy and workplace documents. It’s part of the broader effort to address workforce development, and most counties in Missouri have signed on. Proponents say companies that use WorkKeys in hiring have less turnover, fewer disciplinary problems, lower training costs – and higher productivity.

The Blue Springs School District is among those encouraging students to take the test. It’s adapting to the times. The district says more students are taking career ed courses than in years past, looking to skip a four-year degree and go to work sooner. Nearly 200 high school students in the district took the WorkKeys test last year.

Those already in the workforce can take the test as well through the Full Employment Council.

“This is the wave of the future,” Vermillion said, “and definitely a great tool for businesses and schools to use together.”

Quick hits

A Little BBQ Joint, 1101 West U.S. 24 in Independence, came in second recently in a readers poll by USA Today looking for the best ribs in Missouri. The greater metro area had five – only five? – of the top 10. Tin Kitchen in Weston was No. 1, Wabash BBQ in Excelsior Springs (and Chillicothe) was No. 5, Char Bar in Westport was No. 6, and Q39 a few blocks away was No. 8. … The Creighton Economic Forecasting Group at Creighton University says Missouri and other Midwestern states can continue to expect growth in the months ahead, though there’s a word of caution. The group surveys purchasing managers at manufacturing companies about factors such as inventory, delivery lead time and employment. Manufacturers are doing well, Creighton says, but workers in Missouri have seen a 2.4 percent gain in hourly wage in the last year – a few paces behind the national average of 3.1 percent.

Jeff Fox is The Examiner’s editor. Reach him at 816-350-6365 or jeff.fox@examiner.net.