Across the nation, nonprofit organizations are facing hard facts about their leadership bench: There are far more leadership opportunities than there are leaders ready to take the reins. Detroit is no exception. The City faces a significant need for a stronger pipeline of workforce system leadership talent for the same reasons the rest of the nation is paying attention to this issue. Yet, in Detroit, the stakes are even higher. The City’s business, civic, and philanthropic communities are rallying around a set of strategies in Detroit that have already made notable impact on the lives of Detroiters. From eliminating blight and repairing streetlights to reforming the systems that link chronically underskilled and underemployed Detroiters to a brighter future, Detroit has picked up momentum toward solving major issues–momentum that no one can afford to lose. Developing a leadership base that deeply understands and can successfully navigate the complexities and opportunities for Detroit’s workforce and employers is key to sustaining the improvements that have begun.
In early 2017, JPMorgan Chase & Co., in partnership with Corporation for a Skilled Workforce (CSW) and The Aspen Institute, launched the first ever Detroit Workforce System Leadership Development Academy. It leveraged and built on the expertise of leaders across the workforce ecosystem through an intensive 12-month learning program, facilitated by local professionals and guest faculty from across the nation. Anchored in a world-class sector skills development model, grounded in practical application of innovative practices, and backed by an executive-level Detroit-based council of leaders, the Academy concluded in December 2017 with capstone presentations that offered solutions for some of the City’s most intractable workforce issues.
The goals of the Academy were to help workforce leaders better engage employers, understand industry workforce needs, develop successful career pathway strategies, and strengthen connections between training providers, job seekers and employers. Feedback from participants and resulting activities indicate that the Academy played a valuable, important role by providing opportunities to learn together and collaborate on these challenges.
The 18 Academy fellows who graduated in this first Detroit cohort are part of a direct investment in the bedrock of the Detroit workforce system – local leaders, who will help shape policy and partnerships that will be key to the city’s growth in the coming years. In addition to establishing this program as a flagship experience for Detroit’s workforce system, graduates of the program are recognized as Aspen Economic Opportunity Fellows, and join other leaders nationally in a growing network of Fellows from academies in Baltimore, Seattle, and Toronto, Canada.