A John Hardin High School graduate wears the blue and green cords earned by those who completed the WEC program.

Hardin County Schools announced its Work Ethic Certification Program at the March 2013 Hardin County Chamber of Commerce luncheon.  Sixty-one total seniors earned the golden seal on their diploma that next school year.  When seniors walk across the district’s graduation stages next month, 450 students will have the seal on their diploma. 

As a participant in the HCS Work Ethic Certification (WEC) program, students must demonstrate proficiency in the district’s GREAT 8 Standards (see below).  These standards focus on the “soft skills” which employers across Hardin County, the state, the region and the country yearn – good attendance, respect, communication skills, etc.  WEC serves as validation that students have successfully displayed strong work habits that will foster success in both higher education and the workplace.

Combined with the criteria and standards they must meet, WEC participants receive instruction on the GREAT 8 Standards in their senior English course.  The Hardin County Chamber of Commerce helps the district recruit business and industry to support WEC by participating in the program’s capstone piece – a real interview conducted by business and community leaders – and by allowing Work Ethic Certification graduates an opportunity for a job interview at their business.  Interviews may not lead to hires, but it gives the graduate the priceless experience of an interview.  The Chamber also provides three $1000 scholarships to seniors (one at Central Hardin High School, John Hardin High School and North Hardin High School) who have excelled in demonstrating the standards.

Attempting to earn the WEC is not mandatory.  While each student learns about it and the GREAT 8 Standards, students must prove they have independently met the rigors of each standard and be successful in the interview with business or community leaders. 

The program has grown since 2013-14.  Here are the numbers:

  • 2013-14 – 61
  • 2014-15 – 200
  • 2015-16 – 187
  • 2016-17 – 450

“We think students are beginning to see the tremendous value in this program,” HCS Superintendent Teresa Morgan said.  “Degrees, certifications and diplomas certainly help in obtaining a job.  However, the GREAT 8 Standards are essential in keeping a job.  Four years ago, our district recognized the need to start this program with a goal of helping our students become marketable when they graduate.  I know we are succeeding,”

“The Work Ethic Certification program’s success is a success for our entire community,” United Bank Heartland Region President and Immediate-Past Chair of the Hardin County Chamber of Commerce Marilyn Ford said.  “The Hardin County Chamber of Commerce, businesses in our community and across the state and nation recognize that we have a significant workforce challenge.”

Numerous Kentucky school districts and districts in states as far away as Washington have inquired about the HCS Work Ethic Certification program.  The Kentucky Chamber of Commerce has also made note of the program and asked district leaders to share it a Kentucky Workforce Summit several months ago. 

“Businesses or employers can typically train the technical skills,” Ford added.  “The ‘essential’ skills are much more difficult to instill if they haven’t been taught at home or in school.  Our Chamber recognized the importance of partnering with our schools to improve these skills in our community and was excited to see the results.  This translates into better students, a better future workforce for our businesses/employers and ultimately an overall better community.  It has been a privilege to be part of the initiation and continuation of this very valuable program.”

“The Hardin County Chamber of Commerce is passionate about helping to improve our area’s workforce,” Senior Vice President of Heartland Communications Consultants and Chair-Elect of the Hardin County Chamber of Commerce Kenny Rambo said.  “The HCS Work Ethic Certification program is an important tool for our Chamber, our industrial foundations and others who work to recruit business and industry to our area.  Our employers know that our students have the essential skills to make their business profitable.  I’m very impressed with the growth of this program.”

“We are determined to see these numbers increase,” Morgan added. “We want more hard-working and qualified employees to enter into our local work force.  As that happens, productivity will go up and more money will funnel in and out of our local economy.  This is a win-win for everyone.”

The GREAT 8 Standards are as follows: 

  • Attendance & Tardiness
  • Personal Responsibility & Accountability
  • Academic Performance
  • Work Habits & Persistence
  • Punctuality, Preparedness & Organization
  • Respectful Interactions & Communication
  • Cooperation & Teamwork
  • Community Service

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