Center for the Future of Arizona to Launch Workforce Leadership Academy in Collaboration with the Aspen Institute

February 1, 2021

The Academy, consisting of Twenty-four Fellows, is designed to provide professional development for a local network of workforce development leaders

Contact: Jon Purves
The Aspen Institute

Washington, DC, February 1, 2021 The Center for the Future of Arizona (CFA) announced today that it is sponsoring a Workforce Leadership Academy in partnership with the Aspen Institute. The Academy is designed to provide professional development for a local network of workforce development leaders to collaborate on solutions to common challenges. The Academy is supported by an Advisory Council of senior leaders from across the Greater Phoenix area representing organizations engaged in workforce development.

Twenty-four Fellows will be selected in a competitive application process. CFA and the Aspen Institute encourage senior-level managers from non-profit organizations, business associations, union-based training efforts, public agencies, and community colleges who are in a position to make change and empowered to do so to apply.

The workforce development system is a set of organizations and activities that prepares people for employment, helps workers advance in their careers and seeks to build a skilled workforce to support employers and their local economy. Strengthening workforce development contributes to creating a stronger and brighter future for Arizona.

Learn more about the Academy, register for the informational webinar and apply at The informational webinar for interested applicants is Tuesday, February 9th, 2021 and the deadline to apply is March 5th, 2021.

The Greater Phoenix Academy is the latest in a series of Academies held across the United States and Canada. This Academy is made possible through the support of Walmart.

“CFA is pleased to partner with the Aspen Institute to bring the Workforce Leadership Academy to the Greater Phoenix area to provide professional development for workforce leaders to improve economic mobility and create innovative solutions to the challenges faced by workers and businesses,” stated Sybil Francis, President & CEO, Center for the Future of Arizona. “The Academy supports CFA’s mission of bringing Arizonans together to create a stronger and brighter future for our state by strengthening the local network of non-profit, government, academic and community-based organizations through a series of virtual sessions that will introduce the participating Fellows to new tools and strategies. With COVID-19 impacting many people’s work lives and our workforce systems fully engaged in addressing their needs, there’s never been a better time to invest in developing those who lead our workforce organizations.”

The Academy will create and support a peer-learning community of workforce leaders with a ten-month long educational and networking experience to help them manage the challenges they face in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and economic crisis, and address changes in technology, business norms, and policy. These senior-level workforce Fellows will work with leading practitioners from around the U.S., learn about practical planning tools, and collaborate to reflect on and develop effective strategies to strengthen the local workforce system. Alumni of the Academies become part of the Aspen Institute Economic Opportunity Fellows Network.

“Collaboration grows at the speed of trust, and today’s workforce development leaders are increasingly being asked to create solutions through collaboration,” said Sheila Maguire, Senior Fellow at the Aspen Institute Economic Opportunities Program and director of the local network of Workforce Leadership Academies. “This Academy is a rare opportunity for these local leaders to step back with colleagues from the Phoenix area, reflect on their own organizations’ challenges, hear from leading practitioners from around the country, and develop the network and trust so essential for success.”

The Academy will be led locally by Holly Kurtz, Workforce Development Director and Orlando Cazarez, Senior Program Manager with the Center for the Future of Arizona, and a local Advisory Council that includes:

Advisory Council Member Organization
Daniel Barajas
Associate Vice Chancellor, Workforce Development
Maricopa Community Colleges
Heather Carter
Executive Vice President
Greater Phoenix Leadership
Elizabeth Cole
Director, Outreach & Partnerships, Community Development
Rio Salado College, Maricopa Community Colleges and Arizona@Work – Maricopa County Workforce Board Member
Victor Contreras
Director, Workforce Solutions
Chicanos Por La Causa (CBO)
Kristin Ferguson
Professor & Director, Center for Human Capital & Youth Development
Arizona State University
Jesus Love
Executive Director
Literacy Volunteers of America and Arizona@Work-City of Phoenix Workforce Board Member
Jennifer Mellor
Chief Innovation Officer
Greater Phoenix Chamber
Liza Noland
Director of Rural Programs
Local First Arizona
Rob Stenson
Arizona@Work, Manager
Arizona@Work – City of Phoenix
Katrina Thurman
Vice President, Mission Development
Goodwill of Central & Northern Arizona
Chevera Trillo
Administrator, Workforce Development
Arizona Department of Economic Security
Tina Wadham
Arizona@Work, Manager
Arizona@Work – Maricopa County
Kweilin Waller
Deputy Director, Human Services
City of Phoenix
Kolu Wilson
Arizona Workforce Administrator
Arizona Office of Economic Opportunity



The Economic Opportunities Program (EOP) advances promising strategies, policies, and ideas to help low- and moderate-income Americans connect to and thrive in a changing economy. Over its 25 years of work, EOP has focused on expanding individuals’ opportunities to connect to quality work, to start businesses, and to build assets and economic stability.

The Aspen Institute is a global nonprofit organization committed to realizing a free, just, and equitable society. Founded in 1949, the Institute drives change through dialogue, leadership, and action to help solve the most important challenges facing the United States and the world. Headquartered in Washington, DC, the Institute has a campus in Aspen, Colorado, and an international network of partners. For more information, visit

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