From 2008 through 2011, the Aspen Institute Workforce Strategies Initiative (AspenWSI) conducted Courses to Employment (C2E), a demonstration project designed to explore the role that community college-nonprofit partnerships can play in providing the unique supports and services low-income adults need to succeed in a college program, and eventually attach to and succeed in the labor market. Funded by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, C2E investigated six partnerships, studying the challenges adult learners face in community college, strategies and services different partnerships employ to address these challenges, roles and responsibilities of partners, program funding and costs, role of industry partners, and student outcomes. In this online discussion, researchers from AspenWSI and workforce development professionals representing the C2E partnerships will facilitate and discuss these partnerships and findings from this demonstration project.
Maureen Conway is Executive Director of the Economic Opportunities Program (EOP) and the Director of EOP's Workforce Strategies Initiative (WSI). As director of the Workforce Strategies Initiative, she is responsible for leading a team of researchers and consultants in a variety of initiatives to identify and advance strategies that help low-income Americans gain ground in today's labor market. Under her guidance, AspenWSI has grown and expanded its activities to support the field of sectoral employment development. Her vision has led AspenWSI to take on new initiatives that mirror the growth and expansion of the sector approach nationally, including projects that seek to assess the value of workforce development services to business customers, to shed light on the ways in which sector programs support constituents in their struggles to overcome a range of personal and systemic barriers, to create a framework for and document approaches to systems change, to understand the potential for greater collaboration among community colleges and community-based organizations, and much more. Maureen's previous experience includes consulting work for the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in Paris and work for the U.S. Peace Corps. Maureen's previous work for the Aspen Institute includes serving as Associate Director of the Local Employment Approaches for the Disadvantaged program, a research project which focused on the range of initiatives non-profit community groups engage in to promote employment opportunities for the disadvantaged. Maureen is the author of numerous publications on industry-specific workforce development and she has presented findings from her research at various national and regional conferences. Maureen has a Masters in Regional Planning from the University of North Carolina, an M.B.A. from Columbia University and a B.A. in economics and mathematics from Holy Cross College.
Amy Blair is a senior consultant to the Aspen Institute's Workforce Strategies Initiative and has almost two decades of experience working on research and evaluation projects designed to promote learning about highly promising poverty alleviation, sectoral workforce development, and self-employment strategies implemented by community-based and public organizations nationwide. Amy was a lead researcher on the Courses to Employment (C2E) project and through that project explored a number of different approaches to partnership between community colleges and nonprofit organizations that help low-income adults succeed in skills training and employment. She was a lead developer of AspenWSI's Business Value Assessment (BVA) methodology and tools designed for workforce programs to identify and measure the value of their services to employers. Amy has extensively researched and written about the sectoral approach to workforce development, serving as a lead researcher on AspenWSI's Sectoral Strategies for Low-Income Workers, Sectoral Employment Development Learning Project, and Jobs and the Urban Poor projects. Over the years her work has included developing and implementing longitudinal participant outcomes data studies, designing and convening a large number of focus groups with participants of nonprofit- and community college-based programs, site-based program research, strategic grantmaking, designing and facilitating meetings of direct service program leaders, investors and policy developers, and a wide range of information dissemination through publications, conference presentations and webinars. She attended Austin Community College and earned a M.S. in Community and Regional Planning and a B.A. in English from the University of Texas at Austin.
Matt Helmer has been a Research Associate with the Aspen Institute's Workforce Strategies Initiative since 2009. He currently works with the AspenWSI team on a variety of projects conducting quantitative and qualitative research, planning site visits, writing research publications and program profiles, and facilitating meetings and webinars. Matt has conducted quantitative analysis of students' education and employment outcomes for nonprofit-community college partnerships as part of Courses to Employment (C2E) and has assisted Goodwill Industries International with developing a tool to assess the impact of Goodwill-community college partnerships through the Goodwill C4 project. With funding from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Matt has been deeply involved in looking at the construction sector and the role pre-apprenticeship programs play in the industry and in regional economies. In this work, Matt has interviewed various stakeholders and helped plan and conduct in-depth site visits. Matt also facilitates meetings for the Sector Skills Academy, a fellowship program for workforce development leaders, and presents findings from AspenWSI's research at conferences around the country. Prior to joining Aspen, Matt worked in Seattle with Neighborhood House, a community-based organization that collaborated with the Seattle Jobs Initiative and Airport Jobs to help low-income individuals obtain employment. Matt has a Master's in Public Administration from the Daniel J. Evans School of Public Affairs at the University of Washington and Master's of Arts Degree in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. He has worked in the ESL and special education fields for a number of years, leading several large curriculum development projects and serving as a teacher and teacher trainer. Mr. Helmer served as a Senior English Language Fellow at the University of Damascus in Syria on a U.S. State Department grant, has instructed visiting scholars from Afghanistan in research and academic writing skills, and worked as a Peace Corps volunteer in the Kingdom of Tonga.
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