MYRTLE BEACH — When George Gause applied for a job at Santee Cooper, the first thing the company did was to give him a test.
The test, developed by the same company that created and administers the ACT college tests, judges applicants in four areas Santee Cooper has identified as key to doing the its work: observation, teamwork, reading for comprehension and applied mathematics.
“It was a good test,” said Gause, who played professional football before he sought work at the electric company. “It made you think a little.”
Now Horry Georgetown Technical College – which administers the pre-employment tests for Santee Cooper – is leading an effort to test as many people as possible in Horry County.
The result, said HGTC president Neyle Wilson, will be a list of candidates that potential employers can use to see if the area has people who can be trained to do their jobs or, in many cases, have the specific skills for specific work.
Wilson hopes the county can earn a National Career Readiness Certificate, a badge that will let employers know it has information they need to decide if they want to move work and jobs here.
“(One of) the big questions (employers) have,” said Wilson, a member of the executive board of the Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corp., “is ‘Tell me about the skills of your workforce.’ “
Although WorkKeys testing, as it is called, has been around for at least a decade, ACT is trying to promote its broader use by awarding grant money to four states, including South Carolina, to institute programs that will lead to counties being certified in career readiness.
Horry is among the majority of the state’s counties that has applied with the governor’s office to get some of the grant money, but Wilson said no information has yet come down on which counties will get the funding or how much they can expect.
What he wants is enough to cover at least the basic testing for HGTC’s HVAC and engineering students, initially, as well as people in adult education courses and those seeking work through the unemployment office.
The basic WorkKeys test assesses people in applied mathematics, locating information and reading for information. Wilson said there are additional tests geared to specific skills, such as plumbing, electronics and more than 1,000 others.
To get a certification, the county will have to meet certain criteria over a three-year timeframe, Wilson said. They include completed tests and local businesses who say they will use the assessment in their hiring process.
Neil James, manager of distribution operations for Santee Cooper, said the company has been using the Work Keys tests for 10 years. Previously, it used another pre-employment test, but changed after HGTC professors told them the ACT tests likely were better and then worked with the company to be sure its new pre-employment test could measure the areas it wanted measured.
The WorkKeys tests has a 75 percent rate in selecting the right employees. The former test came in at 50 percent.
James said the Santee Cooper initiated the tests for people applying for jobs as line techs and auxiliary operations and now uses it for candidates for 11 jobs. He said the company has seen a reduction in turnover because the tests help to insure that the people it hires are good matches for the jobs they will do.
Gause has been a line tech C for about a year and should get a promotion to a B-level line tech in a year and then to A-level about three years later.
He said that his experience in football helped him with the tests because success on the gridiron required him to use observation, teamwork, job preparation and hard work.
It paid off for the company, James said, as well as for Gause.
“So far everything here is going great,” Gause said.
Contact STEVE JONES at 444-1765.