Kentucky National Career Readiness Certification

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is the Kentucky National Career Readiness Certificate (KY NCRC)?
This portable credential — powered by ACT WorkKeys® — verifies to employers anywhere in Kentucky and the United States that an individual has essential core employability skills in Applied Math, Graphic Literacy and Workplace Documents. These three core skills are highly important to the majority of jobs in the workplace. The certificate offers individuals, employers, and educators an easily understood and universally valued credential that certifies the attainment of these workplace skills.
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2. Who developed WorkKeys® and the National Career Readiness Certificate?
ACT WorkKeys and the National Career Readiness Certificate were developed by ACT, an internationally recognized assessment and research company. ACT is best known for the ACT assessment, which helps students transition into college. ACT is equally committed to helping individuals transition into and within the workplace using WorkKeys. There are WorkKeys assessments for cognitive, communication and soft skills; a complete list can be found at
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3. How did the National Career Readiness Certificate become the KY NCRC?
There is already broad-based usage of WorkKeys assessments and the NCRC throughout the State of Kentucky; WorkKeys tests are currently in use by many agencies to determine candidates’ skills and qualifications for available jobs. They are also being used by state apprenticeship training and other occupational programs to determine applicants’ readiness to enter and succeed in the program, and many of the state’s community colleges are WorkKeys testing centers.
Kentucky’s state workforce investment board uses the NCRC as one of the measures of work readiness for the Work Ready Community initiative.
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4. Why is the KY NCRC based on the Applied Math, Graphic Literacy and Workplace Documents, skills?
ACT has profiled more than 30,000 individual jobs across the country to determine the skills and skill levels needed to succeed in them. ACT currently has nine different assessments. However, according to ACT findings, the three (3) skills assessed in the KY NCRC are highly important to the vast majority of jobs. A solid foundation of these core work skills is essential for a well-qualified workforce.
Applied Math — Applying mathematical reasoning to work-related problems.
Graphic Literacy — Using information from materials like diagrams, floor plans, tables, forms, graphs, and charts. Some level of Graphic Literacy shows up in almost 98% of profiled jobs.
Workplace Documents — Comprehending work-related reading materials, from memos, email chains and bulletins to policy manuals and governmental regulations.
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5. What makes the KY NCRC unique?
The KY NCRC is based on a subset of the well-established WorkKeys tests that are documented as making a difference for employers. The WorkKeys assessment has been in use for nearly three decades and is already widely accepted by thousands of companies all over the world. WorkKeys exams are compliant with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) regulations.
Because ACT WorkKeys assess essential and foundation skills, they are applicable to, and necessary for, virtually every job. Additionally, in response to employer requests to further prepare Kentucky job seekers for employment, individuals, who complete employability skills training, take the WorkKeys assessment and comply with state standards, will receive a NCRC certificate from the Commonwealth of Kentucky at the level they have achieved.
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6. What are employability skills?
Employability skills represent essential work habits, behaviors, and attitudes required in today’s workplace. They include skill development in areas such as effective communication, teamwork, diversity, conflict resolution, problem solving, and critical thinking.
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7. What are the certificate skill levels?
The WorkKeys job profiling process has generated a database with occupational profiles for thousands of jobs across the country. A majority of the jobs in the database require certain skill levels in three core areas: Applied Math, Graphic Literacy, and Workplace Documents. The higher the skill levels, the more jobs for which the applicant qualifies. The certificates are awarded at four levels:
Platinum Level —Signifies an individual has scored at least a Level 6 in each of the three core areas.
Gold Level —Signifies an individual has scored at a Level 5 in each of the three core areas.
Silver Level —Signifies an individual has scored at least a Level 4 in each of the three core areas.
Bronze Level —Signifies an individual has scored at least a Level 3 in each of the three core areas. (Bronze certificate not awarded in Kentucky)
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8. How are the certificate skill levels related to job skill requirements?
The WorkKeys assessments contain situations, reading materials, problems, and messages directly related to activities in the workplace. The assessments are criteria-referenced to skills and skill levels that employers have determined are necessary for successful performance in the workplace.
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9. How can employers use the KY NCRC?
Employers can use the KY NCRC as a factor, along with other educational and background information, in making employment and training decisions. The KY NCRC is often considered a plus when presented to an employer during the hiring process because it shows the individual has attained specific workforce competency levels in Applied Math, Graphic Literacy and Workplace Documents.
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10. What are the benefits to an employer using the KY NCRC?
Many employers testify that WorkKeys assessments have been shown to improve the quality of new hires, reduce training time, reduce turnover, and increase productivity. An employer may use the KY NCRC to help reduce hiring time and costs.
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11. How will employers know applicants have valid KY NCRCs?
Certification is verifiable in two ways. The applicant/employee may present the physical certificate. Employers can also verify certification through the ACT website ( using the certificate number provided by the applicant/employee.
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12. Why do individuals need the KY NCRC?
The KY NCRC is designed to complement other traditional credentials, such as a high school diploma, community college degree, or college degree. While these educational credentials mark the fulfillment of an individual‘s classroom learning experiences, the NCRC credential confirms the individual‘s competence in a specific set of workplace skills.
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13. Do individuals with a high school diploma or GED still need a KY NCRC?
Yes. The KY NCRC shows an individual’s qualifications in essential workplace skills. But, it is not a replacement for the high school diploma or any other credential or certification. It is a reinforcement of the Kentucky high school standards and a portal to tutorial learning, remediation, post-secondary education, and work. The certificate is a meaningful achievement along the continuum of lifelong learning.
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14. Is training available to improve the WorkKeys® skill levels?
The WorkKeys system is tied to specific training and curriculum for skill improvement, enabling educators and trainers to help individuals improve their skills and enhance job opportunities. The Commonwealth of Kentucky, through Kentucky Adult Education Skills U and the Kentucky Career Centers, offers WIN Career Readiness training to prepare test takers for the NCRC. 
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15. Where do individuals go to enroll and take the assessments for the KY NCRC?
Individuals should contact their local Kentucky Career Center for more information or the Commonwealth’s NCRC Program Coordinator at (502) 782-3035.
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16. How much do the assessments cost and how will the costs be covered?
Each assessment for the NCRC currently costs $9.00 (all 3 WorkKeys parts are needed) and the certificate itself is an additional $6.50. In some cases, federal funds, available through the Department of Labor (Wagner-Peyser Act) can be used to cover these costs for some individuals assessed through the KY NCRC system. The current policy (12/2013) is - 1) an Employer must have a current job order placed through the Kentucky Focus Talent system; 2) the Employer must "prefer" or "require" WorkKeys/NCRC as part of the employment process. If the Employer "requires" specific WorkKeys/NCRC assessments, they must have a profile; 3) the Job Seeker must be otherwise qualified for the position, but not have the WorkKeys/NCRC assessments required; 4) OET will pay for these assessments. Retests are also covered under this policy, but he job seeker must have proof of remediation before retesting can take place.

NOTE: Not all WorkKeys assessments are priced the same, please contact the NCRC Coordinator for current pricing. Other WorkKeys assessments can be administered at the Employer's request if they are 'prefered' or 'required' - Employers can find recommended assessments per position description at the following ACT site:

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17. Is the KY NCRC a racially/ethnically neutral assessment?
WorkKeys skills provide all individuals, independent of their racial/ethnic background, a fair opportunity to demonstrate their skills. To ensure this opportunity, the WorkKeys assessments are developed according to high professional standards. Assessment items are subjected to an external review for cultural bias and are analyzed to ensure they provide a fair test of the skills being assessed. The important consideration is that individuals have access to a valid and reliable indicator of their skills so their strengths and weaknesses can be accurately identified and addressed.
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18. Are accommodations made for those interested in pursuing a certificate who have disabilities?
It is essential that obtaining the KY NCRC be an inclusive process for examinees with disabilities. The Office of Employment in Training is committed to the letter and spirit of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Proctors and test administrators must follow the WorkKeys guidelines for providing accommodations for test takers with disabilities. Employers must be informed that regardless of how applicants with disabilities score on WorkKeys, they still have a responsibility to consider employment for any applicant if the applicant can perform the essential functions of the job for which the applicant is applying with reasonable accommodation.
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19. What is NEW from ACT WorkKeys?

ACT, Inc. made enhancements to their core assessments in 2017; this will affected the scoring for the NCRC. Additionally, ACT has announced that they will begin to "sunset" several of the WorkKeys assessments as they evaluate their efficacy in the 21st century workplace. The three core assessments (Applied Math, Graphic Literacy and Workplace Documents) are now fully in use around the country and were officially adopted by the state of Kentucky on October 06, 2017.

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