Featured Speaker

Michael McAfee – President & CEO, PolicyLink

Michael McAfee, President and CEO, leads PolicyLink, a national research and action institute focused on advancing racial and economic equity: just and fair inclusion for everyone living in America. He brings over 20 years of experience as a leader who has partnered with organizations across the public, philanthropic, and private sectors to realize this vision.

Michael came to PolicyLink in 2011 as the inaugural director of the Promise Neighborhoods Institute at PolicyLink. Under his leadership, PolicyLink emerged as a national leader in building cradle-to-career systems that ensure children and youth in our nation’s most distressed communities have a pathway into the middle class. His partnership with local leaders, in more than 60 communities in 27 states and the District of Columbia, contributed to significant improvements in the educational and developmental outcomes for more than 300,000 children, and helped attract public and private investments exceeding $1 billion. Because of the focus on results, Promise Neighborhoods became a permanent federal program through the 2015 authorization of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

Michael also conceptualized and leads the Corporate Racial Equity Advantage, the first comprehensive tool to guide private sector companies in assessing and actively promoting equity in every aspect of their business operations and strategy.

Before joining PolicyLink, Michael served as senior community planning and development representative in the Chicago Regional Office of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). While at HUD, he managed a $450 million housing, community, and economic development portfolio where he partnered with local leaders to create more than 3,000 units of affordable housing, 5,000 jobs, and ensure access to social services for more than 200,000 families.

Prior to his public service, Michael served as the director of community leadership for The Greater Kansas City Foundation and Affiliated Trusts. He was instrumental in positioning the organization to raise $121 million from individual donors, an accomplishment that earned the foundation the honor of being recognized by the Chronicle of Philanthropy as receiving more contributions than any community foundation in America.

Michael serves on the boards of Bridge Housing, Independent Sector, North Lawndale Employment Network, One Degree, and Sweet Beginnings, LLC, and previously served in the United States Army and as Dean’s Distinguished Visiting Fellow at Harvard Graduate School of Education. He earned his doctorate of education in human and organizational learning from George Washington University and completed Harvard University’s Executive Program in Public Management. He is an avid off-road hiker and practitioner of yoga.

Plenary Speakers

Kelly Aiken – Vice President of Programs & Director of CareerSTAT, National Fund for Workforce Solutions

Kelly Aiken is Vice President of the National Fund and the Director of its CareerSTAT Initiative. Ms. Aiken is responsible for operating CareerSTAT, which is a network of health care leaders investing in the skills and careers of frontline workers, and supporting National Fund staff and partners in aligning CareerSTAT with the National Fund’s job quality efforts and advancing the National Fund’s mission to promoting employer leadership, workforce innovation, and better jobs. As a workforce development leader, Ms. Aiken has over 20 years of experience building and sustaining multi-sector partnerships focused on providing low wage workers access to career pathways and family-sustaining jobs. Prior to joining the National Fund, Kelly served as Director of Labor and Workforce Development at the Massachusetts Senior Care Association where she helped develop the employer-led Quality Jobs for Quality Care Initiative to give nursing home workers a pathway to a living wage. From 2006 to 2014, Kelly served as Director of Healthcare Workforce Initiatives at the Regional Employment Board of Hampden County in Springfield, MA. Kelly earned a Master’s degree in education and community development from the University of California Davis and a Bachelor’s degree in environmental design from the University of Colorado Boulder.

Denise Cherenfant – Director for Nursing Programs, 1199SEIU League Training and Upgrading Fund

Denise Cherenfant is the director for nursing programs at 1199SEIU League Training and Upgrading Fund (TUF), a joint labor management healthcare training partnership. With more than 300 contributing employers, TUF is responsible for providing educational services to 150,000 healthcare workers in the greater New York City metropolitan area. Ms. Cherenfant directs the academic and support services for entry-level healthcare workers seeking to become nurses, serving more than 600 nursing students annually. She led the TUF’s efforts to increase enrollment in bachelor-level nursing programs and created an innovative series of transition-to-practice programs for newly licensed nurses. Ms. Cherenfant holds a bachelor of science degree in nursing from Lehman college and is a licensed registered nurse.

Fred Dedrick – President & CEO, National Fund for Workforce Solutions

Fred Dedrick is the president and CEO of the National Fund for Workforce Solutions and is responsible for implementing the mission and vision of the National Fund to strengthen communities, develop employer leaders, promote workforce innovations, and generate good jobs. Mr. Dedrick joined the National Fund at Jobs for the Future as its first executive director in March of 2010. Mr. Dedrick became the National Fund’s first president and CEO in 2016. Mr. Dedrick has more than 30 years of experience in addressing communities’economic and workforce needs, including improving workforce development through partnerships. Most recently, he served as Pennsylvania’s deputy secretary for Workforce Development, overseeing roughly $150 million in federal and state workforce funding. He also served on the executive committee of JOIN, Philadelphia’s regional collaborative supported by the National Fund. Prior to his tenure as deputy secretary, Mr. Dedrick was the executive director of Pennsylvania’s statewide Workforce Investment Board, developing recommendations for Governor Ed Rendall regarding workforce policy and strategy. He has also held various leadership roles statewide and in Philadelphia that involved attracting new businesses, developing industry-specific education programs, and engaging in other workforce-related activities. Mr. Dedrick earned his bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Notre Dame and his master’s in public administration from Princeton University. He currently serves on the leadership council of the National Skills Coalition and the Department of Commerce’s Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

Marnese Elder, MBA – Senior Vice President & Associate Chief Talent Officer, Parkland Health & Hospital System

Marnese Elder helps guide the Office of Talent Management’s (OTM’s) strategy development, integration and program implementation on behalf of all employees at Parkland Health & Hospital System. Elder works across the system to ensure OTM offers comprehensive, supportive talent services.

Marnese was President of the Dallas Black Chamber of Commerce from 2016 to 2018. Prior to that, she served Parkland for 16 years in various OTM leadership roles, including VP, Associate Chief Talent Officer; VP, Talent Management Operations; Director, Human Resources; Manager, Employee Health & Wellness; Health & Wellness Administrator.

Marnese is a member of the American College of Healthcare Executives, the American Public Health Association, Leadership Dallas, the Dallas County Small Business Enterprise Advisory Committee, Visit Dallas Diversity & Inclusion Committee and the North Texas Commission Board of Directors. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Healthcare Administration from Fisk University and an MBA from Texas Woman’s University.

Andrea Kippur – Development Director, National Fund for Workforce Solutions

Andrea Kippur serves as the Development Director for the National Fund for Workforce Solutions. She works in close collaboration with Program Directors, senior leadership, and the board to raise funds for the organization and its partner sites. Prior to joining the National Fund, Andrea worked with a variety of organizations in the DMV including the Capital Area Food Bank, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and Playworks. Starting as a political canvasser with the Human Rights Campaign, Andrea has 10+ years of fundraising experience working to build financial resources for progressive organizations. Andrea earned a Bachelor’s degree in Politics at Occidental College and a Multidisciplinary Business Studies Certificate from Georgetown University’s Continuing Education Program.

Debbie LaPinksa – Senior Vice President of Human Resources, PGT Innovations

Mrs. LaPinska joined PGT Innovations in 1991 as a Customer Service Representative. She currently serves as Senior Vice President of Human Resources. She is responsible for talent acquisition, compensation and benefits, health and safety, and organizational development and training. Prior to her current role, Mrs. LaPinska served as the Vice President of Customer Relations from 2012 to 2014 and Vice President of Sales and Marketing from 2003 to 2012. Mrs. LaPinska has served in multiple roles including leading the Company’s Workforce and Dealer Development functions, Customer Service and Field Service, Transportation, and Sales since her time joining PGT Innovations.

Mrs. LaPinska earned a Bachelor of Arts in Business Management from Eckerd College.

She currently serves on the Charter Review Board for Sarasota County and Board of Directors for both the Venice Area Chamber of Commerce and the Sky Family YMCA.

Alejandro Mendoza – Director, Optimax Systems

Ale’s foundation of experience and desire to work collaboratively with others was obtained while serving in the United States Air Force from 1998 – 2006.  As the Human Resources Manager at Optimax, Ale’ has an integrated role serving as a cross-functional bridge within the organization’s strategy while supporting Business unit functions in their strategic roles.  Externally, Ale’ works to collaborate and build relationships and alliances with institutions, agencies, colleagues, and potential employees.  Ale’ holds an associate degree from Monroe Community College, a bachelor’s degree from Rochester Institute of Technology, a master’s degree from St. John Fisher College.

Jerry Rubin – President & CEO, JVS

Jerry Rubin is President and Chief Executive Officer of JVS. He is responsible for the overall direction and management of the organization and leads its Leadership Team. His responsibilities include setting and leading the strategic direction of the organization, senior staff leadership development, leading organizational innovations, leading development efforts and financial growth, outreach to external constituencies and strategic partnerships, innovations in branding and marketing, and Board relations.

Prior to joining JVS, Jerry was Vice President of Building Economic Opportunities at Jobs For the Future, a national workforce development and education policy, research, and consulting organization. Jerry founded and was Executive Director of two non-profit organizations: the Greater Boston Manufacturing Partnership, a training and consulting organization, and the Coalition For a Better Acre, a community development corporation based in Lowell, Massachusetts. Jerry also spent ten years in the administration of Boston Mayor Raymond L. Flynn, leading several housing, economic development, and workforce development initiatives.

Jerry holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Government from Clark University and a Masters in City Planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is the author of numerous book chapters, articles, and monographs on housing, economic development, and workforce development issues.  Jerry is a member of the Boston Federal Reserve Bank’s Community Development Advisory Council (CDAC), a board member of the Economic Empowerment Trust Fund of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and the Hyde Square Task Force.

Whitney S. SmithWhitney Smith – Executive Director, Global Philanthropy, JPMorgan Chase & Co.

Whitney S. Smith, Executive Director, JPMorgan Chase & Co., leads the Global Philanthropy team for the Central region (13 states from Minnesota to Texas), which includes $30M in grant-making aimed at improving economic opportunity for people in the region. Specific priorities include workforce readiness, consumer financial health, small business development, and affordable housing. Prior to joining JPMorgan Chase, Whitney was with the Joyce Foundation for ten years where she was a Senior Program Director managing both the Employment Program portfolio supporting workforce and skill development initiatives, as well as the Joint Fund for Education and Employment. Prior to joining the Joyce Foundation, Whitney was associate director of the Chicago Jobs Council and worked with homeless families in New York. Leveraging her extensive experience and insights on workforce, Whitney also manages and supports select New Skills at Work efforts across the country. She is a member of the National Fund for Workforce Solutions Board of Directors, and is the co-founder of Workforce Matters and of the Chicagoland Workforce Funders Alliance. She sits on several national advisory boards and panels, including the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Whitney holds a Bachelor’s degree from Bowdoin College and a Master’s degree in social service administration from the University of Chicago.

Jennie Sparandara – Head of Global Workforce Initiatives, Corporate Responsibility, JPMorgan Chase & Co.

Jennie leads the firm’s global commitment to workforce readiness through innovative programs, thoughtful research and by leveraging the firm’s vast resources and talented employees. Jennie’s portfolio focuses on career connected education, industry-driven job training and career pathways. Signature projects include New Skills at Work, JPMorgan’s $350MM commitment to the future of work and workers around the globe, and New Skills for Youth, a $75MM investment to build more effective career education, benefiting employers and young adults alike.

Jennie joined the firm in 2016; she was most recently the Executive Director of the Job Opportunity Investment Network (JOIN), a partnership between philanthropy, government, community organizations and employers that creates a collaborative space for developing industry-led job training. Prior to leading JOIN, Jennie served as the first Director of Human Capital Investments in the City of Philadelphia under Mayor Michael A. Nutter where she was responsible for the coordination of Philadelphia’s anti-poverty programs and workforce development initiatives. Previously, Jennie worked in the federal government and local and national policy organizations.

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

Sailu Timbo – Director, Diversity and Recruiting, Hy-Vee

Sailu’s Hy-Vee career began in 1998 in Waterloo and he continued to work for Hy-Vee while attending the University of Iowa.  After graduation, Sailu decided to take the Store Director career path.  Along the journey he worked at 11 different stores and was the Store Director at 4 of them.  In late 2017, Sailu accepted the position of Director, Diversity and where his main focuses are recruiting talent, training and education to strengthen our inclusive culture.  He has a degree in African American World Studies from the University of Iowa along with his Entrepreneurial Certificate.  Sailu and his wife Kaitlyn reside in Waukee, Iowa with their two daughters Lyla (5) and Lena (3).

Janice Urbanik – Senior Director for Innovation and Strategy, National Fund for Workforce Solutions

Janice Urbanik is Senior Director for the National Fund for Workforce Solutions.  She leverages her past experience as the Executive Director of Partners for a Competitive Workforce in Cincinnati to help other National Fund sites achieve their full potential.  Janice also facilitates the Employer Roundtable of the Cincinnati Child Poverty Collaborative where employers learn from other employers about the policies and practices they can implement to improve recruiting, retention and advancement while also building competitive advantage in their industry. Janice and her work teams have been recognized nationally for their work in assisting under-represented populations attain and retain employment in growing industry sectors in the region.

Paola Velez – Apprentice, Central Piedmont Community College

Paola Velez, a first-generation college student, is a recent graduate of Central Piedmont Community College located in Charlotte, North Carolina.  Fueled by her enthusiasm and interest in both architecture and construction, she earned degrees in Architecture Technology and Construction Management.  Prior to earning her degrees, Pao completed an apprenticeship with Lane Architecture. Pao credits the beautiful architectural landscape in her hometown of Miami as the inspiration for her career choice.  Pao currently works as a CAFM technician at LITTLE with plans to one day own her own construction company.

Michelle Wilson – Director of Evaluation and Impact Assessment, National Fund for Workforce Solutions

Michelle Wilson, Ed.D., is the Director of Evaluation and Impact Assessment. Dr. Wilson has worked in a variety of settings focusing on issues of access and equity in health and educational settings.  She has spent over 18 years conducting community-level research, evaluation, and program development and specializes in research and evaluation design and implementation in complex and challenging settings. Dr. Wilson earned a doctorate in Adult and Community College Education from North Carolina State University, a Masters in Applied Anthropology from the University of Maryland, and a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology and Anthropology from North Carolina A&T State University.


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