past event
Workforce Development

Communities that Work Partnership: Talent Development for Good Jobs and Strong Economies

Audio (MP3)

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About the Event

Skilled workers and good jobs are essential for ensuring robust economic growth, a thriving middle class, and broadly shared prosperity. Increasingly, companies and public agencies – including those in education, workforce, and economic development – are partnering to design innovative ways for workers to gain skills and earn credentials that companies will value and reward. These efforts facilitate the creation of good jobs, support strong businesses, and build healthy communities.

In April 2015, the Aspen Institute Workforce Strategies Initiative jointly launched the Communities That Work Partnership with the US Economic Development Administration. The purpose of this initiative was to document and accelerate the development of employer-led regional workforce initiatives across the country. Seven competitively-selected sites – in Arizona, California, the District of Columbia, Georgia, New York (Greater Buffalo and NYC), and Texas – participated in a learning exchange focused on bridging economic and workforce development to strengthen local talent pipelines and improve access to quality employment. As this project came to a close, we held a conversation with leaders from the partnerships sharing their lessons, accomplishments, and future directions. Speakers also reviewed strategies implemented across the partnerships, as documented in a playbook released at the event.


Featured Speakers

The Honorable Penny Pritzker
US Secretary of Commerce

Penny Pritzker has served as the 38th U.S. Secretary of Commerce since being sworn in by Vice President Joe Biden on June 26, 2013. As Secretary of Commerce, she is focused on providing American businesses and entrepreneurs with the tools they need to grow and hire. In addition to traditional Commerce priorities like trade and manufacturing, Secretary Pritzker has expanded the Department’s focus to include, for the first time, skills and workforce development. Through the “Skills for Business” agenda, the Department is bringing employers and job creators to the table to define precisely what they are looking for in prospective employees. The Department is also working with educators and trainers to ensure they provide the skills demanded and joining forces with labor and social service organizations to strengthen the safety net for workers. Secretary Pritzker earned her bachelor’s degree in economics from Harvard University and J.D. and M.B.A. degrees from Stanford University. She and her husband Dr. Bryan Traubert have two children.


Walter Isaacson
President and CEO, The Aspen Institute

Walter Isaacson is the president and CEO of the Aspen Institute, a nonpartisan educational and policy studies institute based in Washington, DC. He has been the chairman and CEO of CNN and the editor of TIME magazine. Isaacson was born on May 20, 1952, in New Orleans. He is a graduate of Harvard College and of Pembroke College of Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes Scholar. He began his career at The Sunday Times of London and then the New Orleans Times-Picayune. He joined TIME in 1978 and served as a political correspondent, national editor, and editor of digital media before becoming the magazine’s 14th editor in 1996. He became chairman and CEO of CNN in 2001, and then president and CEO of the Aspen Institute in 2003. He has honorary degrees from Tufts University, Cooper Union, Franklin College in Switzerland, University of New Orleans, University of South Carolina, City University of New York (Hunter College), Pomona College, Lehigh University, and Duke University.


The Honorable Jay Williams
US Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development

Jay Williams was appointed by President Obama to serve as the Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development and was sworn into office on Tuesday, May 20, 2014. As the Administrator of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA), Williams is charged with leading the federal economic development agenda by promoting innovation and competitiveness, preparing American regions for growth and success in the global economy. Williams is the recipient of the 2007 John F. Kennedy New Frontier Award. The JFK Library Foundation, in conjunction with the Harvard University Institute of Politics, annually recognizes two exceptional young Americans- under the age of 40, whose contributions in elective office, community service or advocacy demonstrate the impact and value of public service in the spirit of President John F. Kennedy. Assistant Secretary Williams was born and raised in Youngstown. He graduated from Youngstown State University with a B.S.B.A., majoring in finance.


Joe McKinney
Executive Director of National Association of Development Organizations

In October 2012 Joe McKinney was named Executive Director of the National Association of Development Organizations. Joe served as Executive Director of Land-of-Sky Regional Council in Asheville, North Carolina from January 2003 until October 2012. Under his leadership, Land-of-Sky became recognized nationally for its innovation and program expansion in areas such as planning and economic development, workforce development, transportation and transit, aging services, volunteer services, and geographic information systems. Joe has twenty-one years of experience having served in city, county, regional and national association and government management since 1991. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Public Policy Analysis from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and is a candidate for a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from UNC-Chapel Hill.


Maureen Conway
Vice President for Policy Programs, The Aspen Institute
Executive Director, Economic Opportunities Program

Maureen Conway serves as Vice President for Policy Programs at the Aspen Institute and as Executive Director of the Institute’s Economic Opportunities Program (EOP). Ms. Conway founded EOP’s Workforce Strategies Initiative (AspenWSI) and has headed up workforce research at the Aspen Institute since 1999. Ms. Conway’s previous experience includes consulting for the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in Paris and work for the U.S. Peace Corps, where she advised on the design, management, and evaluation of the organization’s economic development programs in Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union. Maureen has an M.B.A. from Columbia University, a Masters in Regional Planning from the University of North Carolina, and a B.A. in economics and mathematics from Holy Cross College.


Peter Beard
Senior Vice President for Regional Workforce Development, Greater Houston Partnership

Peter Beard serves as Senior Vice President for Regional Workforce Development at the Greater Houston Partnership whose mission is to make the Houston region the best place to live, work and build a business. In his role, Peter leads the Partnership’s UpSkill Houston initiative. This business led effort works with employers, educational institutions, community-based organizations, and the public workforce system to develop collective solutions that close the skills gap in Houston. Prior to joining Greater Houston Partnership, Peter served as Senior Vice President for Community Impact at United Way Worldwide in Alexandria, VA; in executive positions at the Fannie Mae Foundation in Washington, DC; and as general counsel at Habitat for Humanity International in Americus, GA. Peter received his A.B. in economics from Davidson College (NC) and J.D. (magna cum laude) from Syracuse University College of Law (NY).


Elizabeth Callahan
Workforce Development Manager, Buffalo Niagara Partnership

Elizabeth Callahan is currently the Workforce Development Manager at the Buffalo Niagara Partnership. She is responsible for all of the workforce and education initiatives. In this role, Elizabeth helps members overcome workforce obstacles and connect with training and education providers. The value that resonates most with her is collaboration. The only way for the region to build a successful workforce is for people to collaborate: employers with educators and businesses with community leaders. Elizabeth received her B.S. in media from SUNY Purchase College in New York.


Adam Ortiz
Director, Prince George’s County Department of the Environment

Adam Ortiz serves as Director for the Department of the Environment for Prince George’s County. Since his assignment in October 2012, the agency has launched aggressive initiatives to tackle blight, enhance property standards enforcement, pilot a public-private partnership to enhance local business participation in the County’s urban retrofit stormwater program, generate more renewable energy and increase community participation in sustainability programs. As a volunteer, he is a member of the Local Government Advisory Council to the EPA Administrator, a Board member of the Chesapeake Bay Trust, has served as President of the Maryland Mayor’s Association (2009-2010) and Chair of the Port Towns Community Development Corporation. He was born and raised in New York’s Hudson Valley and has a B.A. from Goucher College in Towson, Maryland.



Keep the conversation going on Twitter with the hashtag #communitiesthatwork.

Event information
Tue Nov 29, 2016
3:00pm - 4:00pm GMT+0000
Herbert C. Hoover Building, US Department of Commerce Library
1401 Constitution Ave NW
Washington, DC 20230