Speakers

 
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Ambassador Susan E. Rice

Domestic Policy Advisor in the Biden Administration

Ambassador Susan E. Rice is the Domestic Policy Advisor in the Biden Administration. As Director of the Domestic Policy Council, she coordinates the formulation and implementation of President Biden’s domestic policy agenda. She previously served as President Obama’s U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations and National Security Advisor from 2009-2017. She is the author of the New York Times best-selling memoir, Tough Love: My Story of the Things Worth Fighting For. 


Rice was most recently a Distinguished Visiting Research Fellow at American University’s School of International Service and a Non-Resident Senior Fellow at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. Prior to the start of the Biden Administration, she was a contributing opinion writer for the New York Times. 


Previously, Rice served as U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for African Affairs, and Director for International Organizations and Peacekeeping at the National Security Council under President Clinton from 1993-2001. 


Ambassador Rice received her master's degree and Ph.D. in international relations from Oxford University, where she was a Rhodes Scholar, and her B.A. with honors in History from Stanford University. A native of Washington, DC, Ambassador Rice is married and has two children.

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Secretary Cardona

Secretary of Education

Miguel A. Cardona is the 12th U.S. Secretary of Education. Secretary Cardona has dedicated his career to serving students, educators, and families as an elementary school teacher, school principal, district administrator, and, most recently, as commissioner of education for the state of Connecticut. Secretary Cardona’s focus on equity and excellence for all learners has driven his work at all levels of the education sector. Secretary Cardona has led the federal government’s effort to support states in reopening America’s public schools for in-person learning amid the recovery from the pandemic, moving from only 46 percent of schools open when President Biden took office to nearly 100 percent of schools open today. Under Secretary Cardona’s leadership, the U.S. Department of Education also has distributed historic funding through the American Rescue Plan to support K-12 schools and colleges and has granted more than $13 billion in student loan forgiveness.
 
Secretary Cardona earned a bachelor’s degree at Central Connecticut State University as well as a master’s degree and doctorate degree from the University of Connecticut. Secretary Cardona and his wife Marissa are the proud parents of two children who attend public school.

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Secretary Raimondo

Secretary of Commerce

Gina M. Raimondo serves as the 40th U.S. Secretary of Commerce and was sworn in by Vice President Kamala Harris on March 3, 2021. As Secretary of Commerce, she is focused on a simple but vital mission — to spur good-paying jobs, empower entrepreneurs to innovate and grow, and help American workers and businesses compete.


Secretary Raimondo was formerly the 75th Governor of Rhode Island and its first woman governor. She grew up in Smithfield in a tight-knit Italian-American family, the youngest of Joseph and Josephine Raimondo's three children. Her family history and her childhood experiences shaped her core beliefs in hard work, opportunity for all, and the importance of financial security.


After arriving from Italy at age 14, Secretary Raimondo’s grandfather learned English studying in the Providence Public Library and later lived with her family. Her mother was a homemaker, who dedicated her life to teaching her children about the importance of hard work and determination. Her father was a World War II Navy veteran from a family of butchers and became the first in his family to attend college thanks to the GI Bill. After working for 26 years in manufacturing, Joseph lost his job along with hundreds of others when the factory moved overseas, and the Raimondo family lost their sense of financial security.


As a teenager, Secretary Raimondo rode a public bus to LaSalle Academy in Providence, where she was valedictorian of her graduating class. She went on to graduate with honors from Harvard, where she was recognized as the top economics student in her class. She won a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford University where she earned a doctorate and met her future husband Andy Moffit. She later graduated from Yale Law School. Secretary Raimondo clerked for US District Judge Kimba Wood and served as founding employee and senior vice president at Village Ventures.


Wanting to start her own business and be close to family, she returned home to Rhode Island and founded Point Judith Capital, a venture capital firm. In November 2010, Secretary Raimondo was elected to serve as General Treasurer of Rhode Island, receiving the largest number of votes of any statewide candidate. When she took office as General Treasurer, she tackled the state's $7 billion unfunded pension liability. Secretary Raimondo was sworn into office as Governor in January 2015 and won a second term in 2018. She also served as chair of the Democratic Governors’ Association in 2019.


During her time as Governor, Secretary Raimondo kick-started the state’s economy and made record investments in infrastructure, education, and job training. She focused tirelessly on creating economic opportunities and good-paying jobs for all Rhode Islanders. Early in her administration, she launched an innovative workforce development program that develops business-led partnerships to address unique workforce challenges.


Secretary Raimondo is married to Andy Moffit and they have two children, Ceci and Tommy, and a rescue dog, Sparky.

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Secretary Walsh

Secretary of Labor

Martin J. Walsh was sworn in as the 29th Secretary of Labor on March 23, 2021. A lifelong champion of equity and fairness, and a proud product of the City of Boston, Secretary Walsh leads the U.S. Department of Labor with a strong connection to working people, and a commitment to creating an economy that works for all.

In 1997, he was elected to serve as a State Representative for one of the most diverse districts in Massachusetts. There, he focused on creating good jobs, protecting workers' rights, expanding mental health treatment, and investing in public transit.

Following his time as a State Representative, Secretary Walsh spent the last seven years as the Mayor of the City of Boston. While mayor, he led the creation of close to 140,000 jobs and helped secure a statewide $15/hour minimum wage, paid sick leave, and paid parental leave. He established Universal, high-quality Pre-Kindergarten for all children, and free community college for low-income students.

Secretary Walsh was a national leader in the response to COVID-19, getting PPE to first responders and nursing homes; funding emergency child care for healthcare and frontline workers; halting evictions and providing rental relief; and setting up multiple funds to help small businesses survive. His work early in the pandemic to pause construction and establish safety requirements has been lauded as a model by both unions and employers alike.

As Mayor of Boston, Secretary Walsh also made his mark as a labor leader. After following his father into Laborers Local 223 in Boston, he rose to head the Building and Construction Trades Council from 2011 to 2013. He worked with business and community leaders to promote high-quality development, and he created a program called Building Pathways that has become a model for increasing diversity in the workplace and providing good career opportunities for women and people of color.

Born and raised in the neighborhood of Dorchester by immigrant parents, Secretary Walsh is driven to ensure our nation's economy works for everyone. Secretary Walsh is a survivor of Burkitt lymphoma and is a proud member of the recovery community who has worked to expand addiction treatment throughout his career. While working full-time as a legislator, he returned to school to earn a degree in Political Science at Boston College.

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Senator Portman

United States Senator from the state of Ohio

Rob Portman is a United States Senator from the state of Ohio, a position he has held since he was first elected in 2010, running a campaign that focused on common-sense conservative ideas to help create jobs and get the deficit under control. Rob won with a margin of 57 to 39 percent, winning 82 of Ohio’s 88 counties. In 2016, he was re-elected, winning by an even larger margin of 58 to 37 percent and winning 84 out of Ohio’s 88 counties.

Rob was born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he still lives today with his wife, Jane. Together they have three children: Jed, Will, and Sally. Rob grew up in a small-business family, where he learned early on the value of hard work, leadership, and fiscal responsibility. When Rob was young, his dad, Bill Portman, borrowed money to start Portman Equipment Company, where Rob and his brother and sister all worked while growing up. His father, and then his brother, built the family business from a small forklift truck dealership with five employees, with Rob's mom as the bookkeeper, to one that employed more than 300 people.

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Senator Kaine

United States Senator from the state of Virginia

Senator Tim Kaine was elected to the Senate in 2012 and serves on the Armed Services; Budget; Foreign Relations; and Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committees.

 

Tim has made boosting job opportunities for everyone a top priority. As co-chair of the bipartisan Career and Technical Education (CTE) Caucus, Tim focuses on expanding access to job-training programs to ensure that students of all ages are prepared with the skills they need for the jobs of the modern economy. Tim has also led successful efforts in the Senate to reduce unemployment for military families and veterans.

 

As a Senator from one of the states most closely connected to the military and the father of a Marine, Tim is focused on crafting smart defense strategy and reducing the risk of unnecessary war. He works to ensure that the military has the resources it needs to keep the country safe and that servicemembers and veterans receive the benefits and care they have earned. He has also been the leading voice against Presidents starting wars without a vote by Congress.

 

Tim believes that health care is a right, not something reserved just for those who can afford it, and has consistently pushed for reforms to expand access to quality care. This includes legislation to give Americans more options for affordable health insurance and to combat the opioid abuse epidemic.

 

Tim grew up working in his father’s ironworking shop in Kansas City. His parents taught him the value of hard work and showed him how small businesses and technical skills strengthen this country every day. After graduating from the University of Missouri, he started his public service career by running a technical school founded by Jesuit missionaries in Honduras. He trained teenagers to become carpenters and welders, equipping them with skills to lift up themselves and their communities.

 

He was first elected to office in 1994, serving as a city councilmember and then Mayor of Richmond. He became Lieutenant Governor of Virginia in 2002 and was inaugurated as Virginia’s 70th Governor in 2006. He is married to Anne Holton, who served as Virginia Secretary of Education from 2014 until 2016 and as the Interim President of George Mason University from 2019 until 2020; she now teaches education policy at GMU. They both revel in the adventures of their three grown children and live in the same Northside Richmond neighborhood where they moved as newlyweds more than 30 years ago.

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Congressman Robert C. "Bobby" Scott

Third Congressional District of Virginia

Congressman Robert C. "Bobby" Scott has represented Virginia’s third congressional district in the U.S. House of Representatives since 1993. Prior to his service in Congress, he served 15 years in the Virginia General Assembly.

 

Congressman Scott currently serves as the Chairman of the Committee on Education and Labor. In this capacity, he is advancing an agenda that improves equity in education, frees students from the burdens of crippling debt, protects and expands access to affordable health care, ensures workers have a safe workplace where they can earn a living wage free from discrimination, and guarantees seniors have a secure and dignified retirement. In 2015, he was one of the four primary authors of the Every Student Succeeds Act, which reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act for the first time in 13 years and replaced the No Child Left Behind Act.

 

Congressman Scott also serves on Committee on the Budget where he is a leading voice on fiscal policy and reducing the deficit.

 

As a former member of the Committee on the Judiciary, he is a leading advocate for reforming our nation’s broken criminal justice system. He has successfully worked to pass bipartisan legislation to reduce mandatory minimum sentences, reform the juvenile justice system, and require reporting and federal data collection of deaths that occur in police custody, jails, and prisons.

 

Congressman Scott resides in Newport News, Virginia. He is a graduate of Harvard College and Boston College Law School. He also served in the Massachusetts National Guard and the United States Army Reserve.

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Virginia Foxx

North Carolina’s 5th District Representative

Republican Leader Virginia Foxx represents North Carolina’s 5th District in the United States House of Representatives. Throughout her time in Congress, Rep. Foxx has established herself as a champion of conservative values and a consistent advocate for America’s students, parents, workers, and job creators.

During the 116th Congress, Rep. Foxx served as the Republican Leader of the Education and Labor Committee and was selected by the House Republican Conference to continue her leadership role in the 117th Congress. Under a Democratic majority, Rep. Foxx played a pivotal role in advancing bipartisan legislation to provide critical social and nutrition services to older Americans during COVID-19 and key legislation to help combat child abuse and neglect.

During the 115th Congress, Rep. Foxx served as the Chairwoman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. She advanced education proposals that returned decision-making power and resource flexibility to the local level while ensuring schools achieve results for taxpayers, parents, and students. She also led the Committee through the bipartisan approval of the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act, which empowered state and local community leaders to connect workers with in-demand jobs. This bill was later signed into law by President Trump on July 31, 2018. As Chair, Rep. Foxx also successfully guided the Save Local Business Act through the Committee and led its passage in the House. This legislation provided local businesses and their employees much-needed relief from the Obama administration’s radical and unworkable joint employer scheme. Rep. Foxx also led the charge in rolling back several harmful Obama administration job-destroying regulations using the Congressional Review Act.

As the Chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Higher Education, Rep. Foxx led legislative efforts to modernize and reform the nation’s workforce development system. The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), signed into law in 2014, provided a long overdue reform of the Workforce Investment Act. WIOA, a bipartisan, bicameral compromise between the Foxx-authored SKILLS Act (H.R. 803) and the Workforce Investment Act of 2013 (S. 1356), streamlines and improves existing federal workforce development programs and fosters a modern workforce that American businesses can rely on to compete.

Prior to representing the citizens of NC-05 in Congress, Rep. Foxx spent 10 years in the North Carolina Senate where she sponsored several statewide and local bills and voted consistently against tax increases and voted for legislation that would make governments more efficient and less wasteful.

Rep. Foxx is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where she received her A.B. degree in English and M.A.C.T. in Sociology. She earned her Ed.D. in Curriculum and Teaching/Higher Education from UNC-Greensboro.

Rep. Foxx began her career as a secretary and research assistant at UNC-Chapel Hill. She taught at Caldwell Community College, was a sociology instructor at Appalachian State University and held several administrative positions at ASU, including Assistant Dean of the General College. Rep. Foxx also served as Deputy Secretary for Management in the N.C. Department of Administration for Governor Jim Martin. Prior to her election to the Senate in 1994, she served as President and later a consultant at Mayland Community College from 1987-1994.

At Mayland Community College, Rep. Foxx implemented several nationally recognized programs including a curriculum evaluation program which has been adopted by major universities. In another major success, she raised over $1 million in private funds for an on-campus, state-of-the-art child development center built by prison inmates and for scholarships. At ASU she implemented a model orientation/academic advising program which is still in existence.

Representative Foxx has been active in civic and business affairs, serving on many state and national committees. She served on the Executive Committee of North Carolina Citizens for Business and Industry and was elected to serve three terms on the Watauga County Board of Education. She was confirmed by the United States Senate for a Presidential appointment to the National Advisory Council for Women's Educational Programs. She also served on the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation Advisory Panel. Other current or former service includes the Board of Directors of the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal, Board of Directors of the N.C. Center for Public Research, the UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Visitors, National Conference of State Legislatures' Blue Ribbon Advisory Panel on Child Care, and Charter Member of the Mount Airy Museum of Regional History.

Virginia Foxx is married to Tom Foxx. Prior to her entering Congress, the couple owned a plant nursery business in Watauga County. Rep. Foxx is an active member in her church and her hobbies are reading, gardening, and being a grandparent to two grandchildren.

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Andy Van Kleunen

Chief Executive Officer of National Skills Coalition

Andy Van Kleunen is the Chief Executive Officer of National Skills Coalition, which he founded in 2000 in collaboration with leaders from the workforce development and philanthropic communities. As a nationally recognized expert on workforce and education policy issues for more than two decades, Andy serves as a trusted, nonpartisan resource to state governors, members of Congress, White House officials, and state and federal agencies – helping policymakers develop and implement workforce policy solutions that expand economic opportunity for every worker, every business, and every industry.


Andy has testified before Congress, spoken at White House policy forums, and his policy expertise, insight, and commentary have also been cited and published in national media outlets, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, NBC News, CNN, CNBC, The Atlantic, Axios, The Hill, US News & World Report, and many other outlets.


Andy has led the National Skills Coalition to become a nationally recognized voice on behalf of a variety of stakeholders—including business leaders, labor leaders, community colleges, community-based organizations, and leaders from the public workforce system—who have come together to advocate for an America that grows its economy by investing in people.


Prior to founding the Coalition, Andy was Director of Workforce Policy for the national Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute, where he worked with employers, unions and client advocates to improve job quality and training for low-wage workers within the nation’s long-term care sector. Andy also spent over 14 years in community organizing and development efforts within several of New York City’s low-income and working-class neighborhoods.


He is a member of the Postsecondary Value Commission, formed by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, in partnership with the Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP).


Andy holds a master’s degree in urban sociology from the Graduate Faculty at the New School for Social Research, and a bachelor’s degree in political science and honors studies from Villanova University. He is based in Philadelphia and Washington, DC.

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Alejandro Mendoza (MS,SHRM-CP)

Director of Human Resources at Optimax Systems Inc.

Alejandro (Ale’) Mendoza is the Director of Human Resources at Optimax Systems Inc, a precision optics manufacturer, located in Ontario, New York. In this role, he is part of the Board of Directors at Optimax and focuses on aligning the company’s strategic goals and culture with a growing workforce. 


Before joining Optimax, Ale’ was a member of the United States Air Force, where he served in a variety of specialized roles. His military career included assignments with Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training, Space Surveillance, and Aircrew Life Support systems and training. 


In addition to his current role at Optimax, Ale’ has a passion for collaborating and building relationships with workforce development organizations. Ale’ serves the local community as a member of the Finger Lakes Advanced Manufacturing Enterprise (FAME), the Finger Lakes Community College foundation board and the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce HR Executive forum while regionally, he’s a member of the NY state workforce strategy group – Invest in skills NY coalition and nationally, he serves as a board member of the National Fund for Workforce Solutions and partners with the National Skills Coalition and Business Leaders United, including a member of their Manufacturing Industry Recovery Panel.


He holds an associate degree from Monroe Community College (MCC), a bachelor’s degree from the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), and a master’s degree from St. John Fisher College. 

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Dr. Alex Camardelle

Director of the Workforce Policy program at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies

Dr. Alex Camardelle is the Director of the Workforce Policy program at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, where he leads a program that centers Black workers in policy debates concerning the future of work, workforce development, and access to good jobs.


Prior to joining the Joint Center, Dr. Camardelle served as the Senior Policy Analyst for Economic Mobility at the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute where his research and advocacy supported policy reforms shaping workforce development, worker justice, and access to core safety net programs for individuals and families with low incomes. He also worked at the Annie E. Casey Foundation, where he was responsible for strengthening economic opportunity through research, grantmaking, and partnerships.


He serves on the board of directors for Foreverfamily, Inc., a national nonprofit dedicated to supporting youth with incarcerated parents. The Georgia Center for Nonprofits recognized Alex as one of its 2017 30 Under 30, a distinction for professionals who are making a powerful impact in Atlanta by exhibiting outstanding leadership, innovation, and commitment to their community work. He is also part of Georgia State University’s 40 under 40 alumni class.


Dr. Camardelle holds a B.A. in political science from the University of Alabama. He is also a graduate of Georgia State University, where he earned his Master’s of Public Administration degree in policy analysis and evaluation and Doctor of Philosophy degree in educational policy studies. Alex’s scholarship focuses on race, workforce development, and political economy. He is also a proud member of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Incorporated.

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Beverly A. Scott, Ph.D.

“People and Communities Matter”

Founder, Introducing Youth to American Infrastructure, Inc.

Dr. Beverly A. Scott’s career in the public transportation industry spans more than three decades in the United States, including four appointments as CEO/General Manager – Boston (MBTA), Atlanta (MARTA), Sacramento (SRTD), and Rhode Island (RIPTA). In 2018, she founded Introducing Youth to American Infrastructure, Inc. (“Iyai+”),  a non-profit dedicated to inspiring, educating, and engaging today’s youth to be tomorrow’s “community builders” -- American infrastructure leaders, skilled workforce, innovators, and entrepreneurs, – with special emphasis on improving the active participation of our most vulnerable youth and historically underutilized groups in infrastructure careers – people of color and women (www.iyai.org).

 
Throughout her career, she has received numerous national and local awards and recognitions. Nationally, the American Public Transportation Authority’s Hall of Fame in 2020; Hubert Humphrey Award for Distinguished Service, American Political Science Association (APSA), Sharon A. Banks, Humanitarian Service Award, Transportation Research Board, National Academies of Sciences; Woman of the Year, Women’s Transportation Seminar International (WTS); Women Who Move the Nation, Conference of Minority Transportation Officials (COMTO); and recognized as a “Transportation Agent of Change” by President Barack Obama/USDOT in 2012.


Dr. Scott currently serves on the national Board of the American Public Transportation Association, APTA (www.apta.com); African Heritage Studies Association, AHSA (www.ahsa50.org), Equiticity Advisory Committee (www.equiticity.org);  International Transportation Learning Center (labor-management workforce development consortium) Founding Board Member and current Senior Advisor (www.transportcenter.org); Research Associate, Mineta Transportation Institute, San Jose State University (www.minteta-institute@sjsu.edu">www.minteta-institute@sjsu.edu); Jobs To Move America, JMA, Vice Chair (www.jobstomoveamerica.org); and the Zero Emissions Transportation Association (ZETA), Education Fund Board (info@zeta2030.org).


In 2011, she was appointed by President Obama to the National Infrastructure Advisory Council (NIAC), a panel of experts including top business executives, leading academics and local government officials who report to the White House through the U.S. Department of Homeland Security with responsibility for making policy recommendations to protect and preserve the physical assets that are critical to the U.S. economy and national security. In 2012, she was appointed NIAC Vice-Chair and currently serves in that capacity (www.cisa.gov>niac-reports-and-recommendations). 


She was recently appointed by the U.S. Global Change Research Program as an Author, Transportation Chapter, Fifth National Climate Assessment. In 2019, she was appointed by State Treasurer Fiona Ma to the California High Speed Rail Peer Review Group (www.cahsrprg.com). She also serves on the Pacific Gas &Electric Sustainability Advisory Council (www.pge.com). 


Dr. Scott holds a doctorate in political science from Howard University; and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Fisk University (magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa).

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Brooke DeRenzis

Chief Strategy Officer

Brooke DeRenzis is the Chief Strategy Officer, where she advises the CEO on strategic opportunities and leads staff in the development, alignment, and implementation of National Skills Coalition’s network, policy, and communications strategies. Prior to her role as Chief Strategy Officer, Brooke was National Skills Coalition’s Managing Director of State Strategies, where she launched numerous multi-state initiatives, including the Skills State Policy Advocacy Network (SkillSPAN) — a first-ever nationwide network of state coalitions expanding skills training for thousands of people through state policy changes.


Brooke’s policy and organizing expertise, publications and partnerships with local community organizations, workforce practitioners, business leaders, and workforce advocates have helped educate policymakers and shaped workforce policy solutions that continue to make a meaningful impact for workers, businesses, and communities.


Prior to joining National Skills Coalition in 2014, Brooke was a Project Director at DC Appleseed Center for Law and Justice, where she led advocacy efforts on a range of public policy issues facing the District of Columbia, including workforce development and postsecondary education. She has also held research positions with the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution.


Brooke holds a master’s in Public Policy from the University of Michigan and a bachelor’s from Sarah Lawrence College. She is based in Washington, DC.

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Daniel Bustillo

Executive Director of the Healthcare Career Advancement Program

(H-CAP)

Daniel Bustillo is Executive Director of the Healthcare Career Advancement Program (H-CAP), a national labor/management organization of SEIU union locals and employers working to develop quality healthcare career education models for high road jobs that increase equity in the healthcare workforce. During his time at H-CAP, Daniel has led a number of policy and programmatic initiatives designed to support healthcare workers and caregivers, such as the recently launched Center for Advancing Racial Equity and Job Quality in Long-Term Care (Center for Equity). And as Director of the National Center for Healthcare Apprenticeships (NCHA) he has played a leading role in developing Registered Apprenticeships in healthcare across the nation. 

Prior to joining H-CAP, Daniel worked with the 1199SEIU Training and Employment Funds, the largest workforce development organization for adult workers in the United States. Daniel presently serves as a member of the US Department of Labor’s Advisory Committee on Apprenticeships and the Board of Directors for The National Skills Coalition.

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Derrick Figures

Sierra Club’s Labor and Economic Justice Director

Derrick Figures is Sierra Club’s Labor and Economic Justice Director. 


There his work broadly focuses on the intersections between the environment, clean energy transitions, and workforce development. 


He is a former Associate Director for Government Relations at the American Federation of Teachers where he worked for 15 years. 
Derrick has extensive experience at the federal, state and local levels as a lobbyist and political activist. Specifically his professional background includes but is not limited to legislative and policy work related to labor and employment, workforce development, public infrastructure, climate and civil rights. Prior to AFT, Derrick worked at the National AFL CIO and Florida state AFL CIO political departments. 


Derrick holds a bachelor's degree from Georgia Southern University and a law degree from the University of Alabama.

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Donald R. Cravins, Jr.

Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer

at the National Urban League

Don Cravins, Jr. serves as the Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer at the National Urban League.

Don graduated from LSU in 1994. Upon graduation, Don attended the Southern University Law Center and obtained a juris doctorate in 1998. Don successfully passed the Louisiana State Bar exam in 1998.

In 2004, Don was elected to the Louisiana House of Representatives. At that time, he and his father State Senator Don Cravins, Sr., made Louisiana history by becoming the only father and son to serve in the Louisiana Legislature at the same time. In 2006, Don was elected to the Louisiana Senate for the seat vacated by his father. During his tenure in the Senate, Don served as Chair of the Insurance Committee and Vice Chair of the Retirement Committee.

In January of 2009 Don began serving as Staff Director and Chief Counsel for the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship. He oversaw all activities of the Committee, vetted presidential nominees, developed policy and legislative initiatives and managed a staff of 30 employees. He played a vital role in the successful passage of the Small Business Jobs Act of 2010. In January of 2013, Don accepted a new role and began serving as Chief of Staff for U.S. Senator Mary L. Landrieu of Louisiana. As such, he was responsible for the administrative and legislative responsibilities of the Senator’s office and created initiatives to assist Louisiana’s small and minority business communities.

In 2015 Don was named the National Urban League’s Senior Vice President for Policy and Executive Director of its Washington Bureau. His primary responsibilities included developing the League’s policy and advocacy agendas and furthering the League’s mission to empower communities through job creation and small business development.

In March 2019, Don accepted a new role as Vice President of Policy and External Affairs at Charter Communications, Inc. and was responsible for building partnerships with external stakeholders to further shared policy objectives. Charter is America’s second largest cable operator in the United States and third largest pay TV operator.

Don left Charter in May 2021 to rejoin the National Urban League. In addition to his duties at NUL, Don is an adjunct professor at The George Washington University and serves as a Major in the District of Columbia Army National Guard. Don serves as Chairman of the Alpha Political Action Committee and on the Boards of the Energy Foundation and Poder Latinx.

He is also a Life Member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., a Life Member of The Rocks, Inc. and a member of the 100 Black Men of Prince Georges County. Don’s honors include being inducted into the Southern University Law School Hall of Fame in 2018 and being named a Distinguished Alumnus of LSU in 2015. Don and his family reside in Maryland in New York.

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Jeannine LaPrad

Managing Director of Policy and Research at National Skills Coalition

Jeannine LaPrad is the Managing Director of Policy and Research at National Skills Coalition, where she leads the organization’s policy research, development, and implementation activities. Jeannine oversees a team of senior workforce research, data, and policy experts who work closely with NSC’s partner networks to highlight what is working in states and communities, support policy advocacy, and provide strategic guidance to policymakers and practitioners.

For the past 20 plus years she has worked with leaders in the non-profit, government, education, and business sectors to reshape employment and education policy and practice in ways create more equitable outcomes for workers and communities. Jeannine is committed to working with partners to center worker voice and experience, improve job quality and economic mobility, and advance racial and gender equality.

Prior to joining NSC, Jeannine worked with the Corporation for a Skilled Workforce for 23 years where she held several positions including serving as a Senior Fellow from 2018-2021 and President and CEO from 2006-2017. Throughout her career Jeannine has led numerous workforce development policy research, development, and technical assistance projects and teams at the state and local levels.

Jeannine has a bachelor’s degree in organizational psychology and communications and a master’s degree in higher education policy from the University of Michigan. Jeannine is based in Ann Arbor, Michigan and Washington, DC.

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Jee Hang Lee

President & CEO for the Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT)

Jee Hang Lee is the President & CEO for the Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT).  Over the last 15 years, Lee led ACCT’s government affairs, public policy research, events, and membership offices.  Working with other higher education organizations and state associations, Lee advocates on behalf of community college boards and colleges on legislative and regulatory issues such as appropriations, student financial aid, and tax policy. Lee serves on the board of the National Asian Pacific Islander Council, National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship, the Rural Community College Alliance and the National Advisory Board of the University of Maryland Global Campus Community College Policy and Administration Program.  Previously, Lee served on the board of trustees of the American Student Association of Community Colleges and the executive committee of the Committee for Education Funding.  Lee holds a bachelor’s degree from Boston University and a master’s degree in political management from George Washington University.

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Jennie Sparandara

Head of Programs Corporate Responsibility, JPMorgan Chase & Co.

Jennie Sparandara leads the firm’s efforts to drive inclusive economic growth in communities through the development of innovative and strategic initiatives that strengthen workforce systems, revitalize neighborhoods, grow small businesses, and improve the financial health of individuals worldwide. Leveraging the firm’s philanthropic, policy, research and business resources, her portfolio includes signature projects such as New Skills at Work, JPMorgan’s $350MM commitment to the future of work and workers around the globe, Small Business Forward, the firm’s $350MM investment supporting Black, LatinX and female entrepreneurs, and AdvancingCities, the firm’s initiative to invest in solutions that bolster the long-term vitality of the world’s cities and the communities within them that have not benefited from economic growth.


Jennie joined the firm in 2016; prior to that she led the Job Opportunity Investment Network (JOIN), a partnership between philanthropy, government, community organizations and employers that creates a collaborative space for upskilling and talent development. Prior to leading JOIN, Jennie served as the first Director of Human Capital Investments in the City of Philadelphia.


Jennie holds a Bachelors degree from Barnard College, Columbia University and a Masters degree in Public Policy from Georgetown University. 

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Katie Spiker

Managing Director of Government Affairs at National Skills Coalition

Katie Spiker is the Managing Director of Government Affairs at National Skills Coalition, where she works to advance NSC’s Washington-based policy efforts through federal legislation, agency regulation, and national funding initiatives. As a workforce policy expert, Katie works closely with members of Congress and their staff, as well as Cabinet agencies – like the Departments of Labor and Education – to develop and implement bipartisan workforce policy solutions to help workers and businesses succeed. Katie also partners with state and local workforce leaders to elevate their advocacy efforts to lawmakers in Washington.


Katie has authored numerous publications on workforce policy issues and her policy expertise, insights, and commentary have been cited and published in local and national media outlets, including CNN, The Hill, Bloomberg, Morning Consult, Inside Higher Ed, The Hechinger Report, IndustryWeek, San Diego Union-Tribune, and many other outlets.


Prior to joining NSC in 2015, Katie was the Associate Director of the National Center for Women’s Employment Equity at Wider Opportunities for Women where she managed the design and provision of on-site and virtual technical assistance and the creation of case studies and policy briefs related to nontraditional occupations and occupational segregation. Katie has also consulted with the Institute for Women’s Policy Research and the National Women’s Law Center. She served as policy counsel for Workplace Flexibility 2010 and the National Partnership for Women and Families as a Women’s Law and Public Policy Fellow. Katie is a 2015 Ford Foundation Public Voices Fellow.


She holds a J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Miami. She is based in Washington, DC.

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Luis Sandoval

Executive Director of Building Skills Partnership (BSP)

Luis Sandoval, (Los Angeles, California) has twenty years of experience in nonprofit management, leading Latino-led and Latino-serving organizations to create, communicate, implement, and sustain strategic initiatives.

 

As the Executive Director of Building Skills Partnership (BSP), he is responsible for scaling the California nonprofit’s programs aimed to improve the quality of life of property service workers in low-wage industries, as well as their families and communities by increasing their access to education, leadership, and career advancement.

Growing up in both Mexicali, a border town in Mexico, and Salinas, California, Luis couldn’t help but take notice of the barriers that prevented him and other immigrants from accessing career and educational opportunities. Inspired by his personal experience of growing up in a family of workers in property and cleaning services, construction, and agriculture jobs who also sought to improve job quality in these sectors, Luis now leads efforts to support property service workers throughout California – 61 percent of whom are immigrants. 

“For the work I do now, I see through my own lens of experiences,” Luis says. “This work is personal, since both my parents and I have worked as janitors at one point.”

In his Executive Director role with BSP, Luis is responsible for forging new relationships in support of immigrant integration and workforce development initiatives focused on property service workers in Los Angeles, Mountain View, Oakland, Orange County, Sacramento, San Diego, and San Jose.

He is co-founder of the California Advocacy Network for Aging Latinos. Luis is also Co-Founder of the AZ-CA Humanitarian Coalition, an interconnected network responding to the migrant humanitarian crisis. This AZ-CA Humanitarian Coalition provides critical support to migrants at various stages of their journey.

 

Luis has been a featured participant as a fellow in Hispanics in Philanthropy Next Generation Latino Philanthropy Leadership Program, and is a former participant of the CA Latino Caucus Leadership Institute. 
 

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Melissa Johnson

Managing Director of State Strategies at National Skills Coalition

Melissa Johnson is the Managing Director of State Strategies at National Skills Coalition, where she leads the organization’s efforts to advance workforce policy solutions at the state level. Melissa oversees the development of NSC’s state policy agenda and works with the organization’s network of state coalitions and partners to provide strategic guidance for policy development, advocacy, advancement, and implementation.


Melissa’s publications, policy expertise, and engagement with local community organizations, workforce boards, business leaders, and workforce advocates have helped educate state policymakers and shaped state workforce policy solutions that continue to make a meaningful impact for workers, businesses, and communities.


Prior to joining National Skills Coalition in in 2017, Melissa was a Senior Policy Analyst at Georgia Budget and Policy Institute where she led the organization’s research on several issues, including gender economic equality, affordable child care and workforce development. Earlier in her career, she worked in policy analysis and legal roles for the Administrative Office of the Courts of Georgia and in the private sector as a management consultant.


She holds a J.D. from Emory University School of Law, as well as an MBA and bachelor’s degree from Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University. Melissa is based in Atlanta and Washington, DC.

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Portia Wu

Managing Director of U.S. Public Policy at Microsoft

Portia has spent her career developing and implementing labor policy and developing expertise in key policy levers including legislation, regulation, executive action, and budget development. She currently serves as Managing Director of U.S. Public Policy at Microsoft. Portia has worked in the public, non-profit, and private sectors on a wide variety of labor issues and policies including job training, wage standards, work and family policy, immigration, pensions and retirement, and worker safety. Most recently, she served as the Assistant Secretary of Labor for Employment and Training, where she oversaw billions of dollars in workforce and training investments, as well as the implementation of WIOA and a variety of income-support and reemployment programs. Portia previously served in the White House as Special Assistant to the President for Labor and Workforce Policy and as General Counsel and Labor Policy Director on the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee, working for Senator Edward M. Kennedy. She also worked at the National Partnership for Women and Families as Vice President for Work-Family Policy.

Portia is a graduate of Yale Law School and Yale College and holds a Master’s Degree from Cornell University.

Portia has been a member of NSC’s Board since 2017.

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Rachel Unruh

Chief of External Affairs at National Skills Coalition

Rachel Unruh is the Chief of External Affairs at National Skills Coalition, where she develops initiatives that support strategic partnerships that advance the organization’s agenda and reach new audiences. Rachel leads NSC’s public opinion research efforts and was the chief strategist for Voices for Skills, a campaign to mobilize working people, students, teachers, and business leaders to educate policymakers and 2020 candidates about overwhelming public support for a new national investment in skills training. In 2021, she led the development of NSC’s Industry Recovery Panels, which advised the Biden administration and congressional leaders on skills policy to support an inclusive economic recovery. She currently leads NSC’s Digital Equity @Work campaign.

As a workforce policy and communications expert for two decades, Rachel has written on skills policy, politics, and public opinion and is a trusted, nonpartisan resource to local and national media, including The New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today, MSNBC, Morning Consult, and The Guardian.

Rachel served as NSC’s Chief of Staff for ten years, leading the development and implementation of NSC’s policy, organizing, advocacy, and communications strategies. She joined NSC in 2006 to develop and lead Skills2Compete, a national campaign endorsed by hundreds of organizations that made the case for a 21st-century skills guarantee to address the demand for U.S. workers with middle-skill credentials. Replicated in 13 states, the campaign brought jobs that fall between a high school degree and a college degree to the attention of the public, policymakers and the media, and helped inform policy changes at the state and national level.

Prior to joining National Skills Coalition in 2006, Rachel served as Director of Community Relations and Senior Policy Associate at Chicago-based Women Employed, a leading national advocate for women’s economic advancement. Rachel’s work included policy analysis and advocacy to increase access to and success in higher education for low-income women.

Rachel holds a master’s degree from Northwestern University and a bachelor’s degree from Grinnell College. She is based in Chicago and Washington, D.C.

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Dr. Sekou Siby

CEO and President, Restaurant Opportunities Centers (ROC) United

Dr. Sekou Siby leads the national staff to support membership operations, training and education programs, community and public engagement, as well as policy advocacy and organizational development. Under his leadership, ROC United is building worker power, and promoting policies that improve the lives of restaurant workers and their communities. 

Dr. Siby’s inspiring story tells a remarkable rise from his native Ivory Coast to New York City, where he survived the 9/11 terrorist attacks. He first worked as a cab driver, a cook at the Windows on the World, and then co-founded ROC United, managing and organizing major campaigns and bringing hundreds of restaurant workers to victory against wage theft and wage inequality. 

A polyglot — speaking four languages — Dr. Siby was featured in major national publications and television networks. He was awarded the  prestigious Heroes Award and National Leading from the Inside Out Yearlong Fellowship by the Robin Hood Foundation and Rockwood Leadership Institute in 2013 and 2018, respectively. He holds an MBA and DBA in Business Management from the University of Phoenix School of Business.