IF YOU GO

What: Career Expo New Mexico XII

When: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday. Employers can begin setting up booths at 8 a.m.

Where: Multi-purpose building of McGee Park, 41 Road 5568, Farmington

Cost: Call Workforce Connection at 505-327-6126. Employers need to register before the expo, but job-seekers can just show up.

More info: Employers and job-seekers can get more information on the Skill Ready Four Corners program by contacting Julie Rasor at 505-566-3201 or by visiting www.skillreadyfourcorners.com

FARMINGTON — A career expo on Wednesday at McGee Park will give job-seekers and employers a chance to connect.

At least 50 employers have already signed up to have booths at the expo, which is sponsored by New Mexico Workforce Connection. Event organizers hope special events -- including a drawing for a 32-inch flatscreen TV, iPad and other prizes -- will draw individuals hoping find employment.

A representative from San Juan College's Career Center will present a workshop on interviewing skills starting at 10 a.m. The presentation will repeat every 45 minutes. Workshops focusing on skills such as resume writing will also be offered.

"We will have our mobile resource computer lab there, and people can post resumes or complete the WorkKeys assessment," said Jackie Allen, regional manager for New Mexico Workforce Connection.

The WorkKeys assessment tests potential employees in applied mathematics, locating information and reading for information. It allows employers to hire workers with skills that best match the available positions. This "smart hiring" ultimately improves employee retention, Allen said. All testing is administered for free.

Those who receive sufficient scores on the WorkKeys assessment tests receive a career-ready certificate that gives them an edge when applying for jobs. Individuals who score poorly can participate in a computer-based training program called KeyTrain, which helps hone their skills and bring up their scores.

"We're trying to create a one-stop testing center with WorkKeys," Allen said. "In addition to being able to test at Workforce Connection, there are also now several testing centers at (San Juan College)."

To help employers better understand skills-based hiring, Julie Rasor, director of administration and operations for Four Corners Economic Development, will present during the expo on a workforce initiative called Skill Ready Four Corners.

"In the past, employers had little to go on to judge the skill base of applicants," Rasor said. "With the WorkKeys test, they can now know potential employees' skill sets and can get a measure on their cognitive ability. It's a tool for hiring and gives them another way of assessing and comparing applicants."

Knowing a potential worker's skill set reduces a company's hiring and turnover costs, Rasor said.

"The college has really beefed up its capacity to test applicants, and there's now also testing in Aztec and Bloomfield," she said. "Employers can also post jobs in Workforce Connection's system."

The goal, Rasor said, is to educate employers about using the hiring tool to identify more skilled workers and to encourage job-seekers to improve their skills.

"There's a lot of time and effort spent on trying to hire the right employees, and if employees have their career-ready certificate, it gives the employers more of a choice," she said.

Leigh Black Irvin covers health for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4610 and lirvin@daily-times.com Follow her @irvindailytimes on Twitter.