New National Network of Workforce Development Leadership and Capacity-Builders

AspenWSI is pleased to announce a newly established leadership and capacity-building network focused on workforce development. This inaugural group of more than 20 professionals from 10 local regions across the United States, plus Toronto Canada, has been trained on the AspenWSI Sector Skills Academy approach, which they will use in their regions to strengthen regional workforce leadership and capacity.

In December 2015, these workforce development professionals gathered for an AspenWSI workshop focused on the critical issue of preparing leaders to design and implement sector strategies. AspenWSI introduced the participants to key elements of the Sector Skills Academy curriculum, and the participants developed or accelerated their plans to deliver local or specialized versions of the Sector Skills Academy.

AspenWSI drew on its 10 years of experience implementing the national Sector Skills Academy, a year-long leadership development fellowship. Over 200 workforce leaders are alumni of the national Sector Skills Academy, and have attributed many local systems changes to this experience. The Sector Skills Academy focuses on sectoral workforce initiatives, which build more effective regional workforce systems that address businesses’ employment-related challenges, while at the same time, improving employment and career advancement opportunities for low- and moderate-income workers. The Academy provides workforce development leaders – from nonprofit workforce training programs, public workforce agencies, community colleges, unions, worker centers, and more – with experiential learning about sector and systems change that has practical and immediate applications, along with building a peer support network of others leading similar work. 

The participants of the December 2015 workshop will use AspenWSI’s Sector Skills Academy model as a foundation for their capacity-building and leadership development efforts. They will have ongoing access to AspenWSI’s national Sector Skills Academy curriculum, program management materials, and network of alumni. They will also continue to receive support from AspenWSI’s Sector Skills Academy staff and core faculty, and from members of this newly-formed professional peer network.

The complete list of the Sector Skills Academy training network members includes:

Mary Ellen Clark

Executive Director, NYC Employment and Training Coalition

New York City, NY

Sharon Sewell-Fairman

Executive Director, Workforce Professional Training Institute

New York City, NY

Keri Faulhaber

Director of Strategic Partnerships and Programs, JobsFirstNYC

New York City, NY

Jenny Bolte

Senior Director of Program Development, Goodwill Industries of the Valleys

Roanoke, VA

KayLynn Hamilton

Senior Research Faculty Associate, The Pennsylvania State University

State College, PA

Blaire Willson Toso

Associate Director, The Pennsylvania State University

State College, PA

Lisa Varon

Independent Project Consultant

Philadelphia, PA

Shalee L. Hodgson

System Innovation Manager, Oregon Employment Department

Salem, OR

Emma Daftary

Director, Client Services, Jewish Vocational Services

San Francisco, CA

Spencer Perry

Director, Technology Programs, Jewish Vocational Services

San Francisco, CA

Jim Torrens

Associate Director for Workforce Innovation, National Network of Sector Partners (NNSP)

Oakland, CA

Chris Pierson

Program Manager, SkillUp Washington

Seattle, WA

Dawn Karber

Chief Operating Officer, Spokane Area Workforce Development Council

Spokane, WA

Joylin Kirk

Senior Director of Mission Services, Goodwill Industries International

Rockville, MD

Kristin Laarhoven

Program Director, Georgia Department of Economic Development Workforce Division

Atlanta, GA

Mary Margaret Garrett

Consultant, Georgia Department of Economic Development Workforce Division

Atlanta, GA

Ellen Johnson

Director, Frontline Focus Training Institute, Chicago Jobs Council

Chicago, IL

Kaitlyn McGovern

Program Associate, Chicago Jobs Council

Chicago, IL

Marty Miles

Workforce Development Consultant

Indianapolis, IN

Mandie Abrams

Director of Strategy, Hospitality Workers Training Centre

Toronto, Canada

Adriana Beemans

Inclusive Local Economies Program Director, Metcalf Foundation

Toronto, Canada

Danielle Olsen

Executive Director, Hospitality Workers Training Centre

Toronto, Ontario


To connect with members of this network in a specific region or organization, or for more information about AspenWSI’s Sector Skills Academy capacity-building and leadership development network, please email

Thank you to The Charles Stewart Mott Foundation for supporting this important work.

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