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Origins of Readiness Standards and Assessments


From the early days when CTECS (then VTECS) was getting its start, the organization became increasingly aware of certain skills that were not quite technical and were not academic, but lived somewhere in the behavioral and common sense spheres. When research began, they were known as “soft skills” or “employability” skills. But a growing list of them kept popping up during meetings with business and industry teams, especially when the work at hand was focused on building comprehensive CTE standards for specific programs or assessment development. Industry leaders kept telling us that new workers were coming to them with adequate technical skills, but they just did not seem to know what was expected of them in the work environment. If they got the job based on education, training, and certification, they often did not understand how to do the little things to meet expectations and advance. The lack of the little things became large problems for employers. So blame it on a lack of workplace-contextualized learning. Blame it on the dwindling percentage of youth in the workforce. Blame it on culture and the economy. Whatever the case, high school graduates showed and continue to show little understanding of what joining and prospering in the workforce really entailed. College graduates lacked this same fundamental knowledge that earlier American generations seemed to take for granted.

In 2009, due to its extensive background with soft skills, CTECS was asked to join an initiative in Virginia to revise Virginia CTE’s skills/standards for “Workplace Readiness.” CTECS focused on a grouping of technology-related skills but enjoyed the company of research-based stakeholders who helped shape the total work from concept, to drafting, to final edit. After Virginia implemented the new list in 2010 in every CTE program, the state naturally wanted an assessment tool, to see what students actually knew, to ensure the skills were actually being taught uniformly, and to improve programs that were falling short. The CTECS Assessment Development model was perfect for this next step and CTECS worked that year to create an assessment for a pilot in 2011.

Each year, all versions of the test called Workplace Readiness Skills successfully evolved. The audience grew and became a staple solution for Virginia CTE credentialing needs. Other state members of our Consortium began to adopt the full package of Workplace Readiness Skills. Nevada began using the WRS test and then Idaho. Parts of main and other pilots began. California joined CTECS and entered a pilot for the California Career Ready Assessment in March 2018. But more importantly, local programs in these states continued to emphasize these skills and CTECS worked with others to develop free curriculum and instructional resources, which led to the creation of modules for each skill, and even this new site:

We include below important links behind the history of the Workplace Readiness project, much by way of our partner and original member of the WRS project, the CTE Resource Center.


The initial work that led to the creation and validation of the current list of skills

  • The latest WRS Summary Research Paper from Weldon Cooper Center, Demographics Research Group, University of Virginia. Led the way for the 2019 revision.
  • Are They Really Ready to Work? Employers’ Perspectives on the Basic Knowledge and Applied Skills of New Entrants to the 21st Century U.S. Workforce
    “This report underscores the importance of increased workforce readiness . . . . [N]ew entrants to the U.S. workforce must be equipped with the basic knowledge and applied skills necessary to be competitive in the global economy of the 21st century.”—The Conference Board, Corporate Voices for Working Families, the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, and the Society for Human Resource Management
  • 2005 Skills Gap Report—A Survey of the American Manufacturing Workforce
    This report attempts to identify the 2005 skills shortages and the future employment needs of businesses. Key quote: “…human capital performance gap threatens our nation’s ability to compete in today’s fast-moving and increasingly demanding global economy. It is emerging as our nation’s most critical business issue.”—Deloitte & Touche USA and The National Association of Manufacturers
  • 21st Century Skills Education & Competitiveness a Resource and Policy Guide
    “This guide summarizes the challenges and opportunities that, if left unaddressed, will curtail our competitiveness and diminish our standing in the world.”—Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21) and e-Luminate Group
  • Critical Skills Needs and Resources for the Changing Workforce
    This “report is based on a survey that asked HR professionals and employees about the various skills, activities and content areas needed in today’s workplace.”—Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and (The Wall Street Journal/Careers Journal)
  • Review of Literature for the Virginia Workplace Readiness Skills Revision, 2009
    This report provides summaries and reviews of the research titles that informed the revision of the Workplace Readiness Skills.—CTE Resource Center


Milestones crossed to bring workplace readiness skills from idea to implementation

  • Correlation: Virginia Workplace Readiness Skills and Career Readiness Practices of the Common Career Technical Core (April 2014)
    This table shows the similarities between the Common Career Technical Core and Virginia’s Workplace Readiness Skills, as agreed to by the Virginia and Nevada Departments of Education.
  • Virginia State Superintendent Memo: Assessment for Workplace Readiness Skills for the Commonwealth 
    This communication from Virginia’s State Superintendent announces the new examination, explains its role in addressing graduation requirements, and provides administration details.—Virginia Department of Education
  • Workplace Readiness Skills Revision Timeline
    This graphic illustrates the history of the Workplace Readiness Skills from 1997 through April 2011.—CTE Resource Center
  • Virginia’s Workplace Readiness Skills Correlated to the Partnership for 21st Century Skills
    This side-by-side correlation shows how the Workplace Readiness Skills address and support the Partnerships for 21st Century Skills.—CTE Resource Center

Products, Promotion, and Review

Reports, promotional items, assessment data, and FAQs

  • The 2010 Workplace Readiness Skills for the Commonwealth
    These are the 21 skills adopted by the Virginia Board of Education in April 2010.
  • Verso: Virginia’s Educational Resource System Online
    This online curriculum management system is Virginia teachers’ gateway to the Workplace Readiness Skills and supporting instructional resources.
  • Initial Conferences and In-services
    Presentations on the Virginia WRS model have been conducted at the following national venues:

    • National Association for Workforce Improvement (NAWI), April 2010, Arlington, Virginia, and May 2012, Boston, Massachusetts
    • National Career Pathway Network (NCPN), 2011, Orlando, Florida
    • CTECS Community of Practice Meeting, November 2011, Atlanta, Georgia
    • Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE), 2011, St. Louis, Missouri
    • Nevada ACTE, July 2011, Lake Tahoe
    • Nevada’s CTE Advisory Council, February 2012, Reno, Nevada:
      Timeline for the Virginia Workplace Readiness Skills Model;
      Workplace Readiness in Virginia (part 1 | part 2 | part 3 | full slide show PDF | slide notes)
    • Nevada ACTE, July 2012, Lake Tahoe, Nevada
    • NCPN, October 2012, Richmond, Virginia
  • Critical Workplace Skills for Virginia’s Economic Vitality
    “This publication summarizes recent national reports and the results of our communication with Virginia employers.”
  • Partnership for 21st Century Skills 
    The Partnership for 21st Century Skills is a national organization that advocates for 21st century readiness for every student.
  • The New Workplace Readiness Skills for the Commonwealth: Virginia’s Research-Based Approach to Teaching and Testing Employability and Life Skills
    This presents the history of the revision: from the initial research through curriculum development to the establishment of an industry credential.
  • Workplace Readiness Skills for the Commonwealth Poster
    This 11×17 poster lists the 21 skills and is available in print and as a downloadable PDF.


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