More than 27,000 Iowans have taken the test and acquired a “National Career Readiness Certificate” since last summer.

“That’s a lot of people, but we’ve been heavily promoting it,” says Kerry Koonce of Iowa Workforce Development.

Des Moines County in southeast Iowa has become the state’s first “Skilled Iowa Community” with five percent of the county’s labor force earning that certification. The state covers the cost of the test for Iowans who’re unemployed or in the state’s “welfare-to-work” program.

The National Career Readiness Certification was created in 2006 and is administered by the same Iowa City company that conducts the ACT for college-bound students. The certification covers three basic skill areas: applied mathematics, reading comprehension, and the ability to search for information.

In the past eight months another state government initiative has arranged internships for more than 65 Iowans who were nearly out of unemployment benefits. 

“The whole goal is to get them additional training, but nearly 55 percent of our interns have had a job offer with the organization that they did their training with,” Koonce says.

The first intern the state placed late last fall was a military veteran who had been unemployed for months. He ended up getting a full-time job offer after completing just two weeks of the eight-week-long internship period.