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Powered by Partnerships: The Advancing Equity Leadership Academy

In a time where the boundaries between learning and work have become less distinct, prioritizing equity is vital for advancing society and it begins with strong partnerships. 

“We believe that every person and every worker deserves a fair shot at achieving economic stability and success. We take pride in the diversity that makes us unique and we believe it is our diversity that makes us strong. Although workforce development is not the sole answer to racial and ethnic inequities or disparities, workforce training and education are crucial tactics in addressing employment, income, and wealth disparities that preclude too many people of color from economic and family security.”

–Workforce board CEO and president and Advancing Equity Master Class participant

As the quote above indicates, equity is a cornerstone of societal progress, especially during this time when the lines between learning and work have blurred. Adult learners and workers must reskill or upskill with increasing frequency to keep pace with accelerating technology changes. This creates challenges—but also opportunities—for closing equity gaps. Chief among them is recognizing that workforce development strategies and resources are vital pieces of the puzzle we are striving to complete to improve equitable economic mobility for individuals and the prosperity of the communities they live and work in.

To take additional strides toward these solutions, CAEL and the National Association of Workforce Boards (NAWB) are collaborating on the Advancing Equity initiative, a strategic partnership for driving systemic change and enabling a future in which economic opportunities are open to all. At the heart of our collaboration is the Advancing Equity Leadership Academy. The Academy draws on the combined expertise and expansive networks of CAEL and NAWB and is guided by expert input from workforce boards throughout the country.

Each Academy cohort, which runs six months, unites diverse workforce leaders in a peer learning environment designed to build lasting and productive connections. With a blend of virtual and in-person engagement, the Academy experience equips and empowers participants to deliver impact grounded in local communities but geared for the kind of growth needed to realize systemic change.

The complementary nature of CAEL and NAWB's partnership is evident in the Academy's curriculum and structure. CAEL's expertise in the Academy model laid the foundation for an ideal professional development and capacity building environment. NAWB's extensive network of workforce boards brought unmatched insight into the challenges and opportunities facing the workforce development field. By combining this experience and expertise, we are able to create a learning environment that is both practical and transformative, positioning participants to translate knowledge and understanding into tangible action.

Uniting unique perspectives and thought leaders around a shared mission to foster a more equitable and inclusive workforce ecosystem is integral to the personal and professional growth the Academy experience provides. The Academy includes immersive workshops, interactive sessions, and insightful case studies. Each of these learning experiences cultivates a thriving exchange of ideas, best practices, and common challenges.

“I have experienced the greatest career growth and program development and delivery success through communities of practice. Learning with and from my colleagues on a topic critical to the success of our future workforce will give me additional skills and tools to have a greater impact on program collaboration and integration. I have a responsibility to improve my skills and knowledge in this area to better serve my workforce board, my team of workforce professionals, the community, and the workforce . . . to work collectively to make a difference.”

–Workforce board executive director and Advancing Equity Master Class Participant

Below are just a few of the issues the Academy is covering:

  • Equitable access to public workforce system services.
  • Engaging, elevating, and activating participant voice.
  • Addressing equity in postsecondary education.
  • Equity and strategic communications in today’s context.
  • Equity, funding, and performance benchmarking.
  • Equity and local and national policy.
  • Equitable outcomes and purposeful data disaggregation.

I thank the many partners involved in the creation of the Equity Leadership Academy, especially the panel of workforce board leaders who came together as a “Master Class” to aid in its development. Their insight was instrumental in identifying the most effective elements for supporting equity-oriented capacity building across workforce boards and adopting or adapting them to our Academy curricula and learning experiences.

We just launched our first Equity Leadership Academy during our annual conference in Baltimore. I look forward to sharing how this and future cohorts emerge empowered as even greater catalysts for connecting adult learners and workers to effective and accessible education-employment pathways.

Addressing DEI is crucial for workforce boards as it not only aligns with social justice principles but also contributes to better education and employment outcomes, economic growth, and a more cohesive and prosperous society. By fostering diversity and inclusion, workforce boards can create an environment where everyone has the opportunity to thrive and contribute to the workforce, leading to more effective and equitable outcomes for all.

–Workforce board assistant director and Advancing Equity Leadership Academy participant

 In the meantime, for more information about our Academy, visit or email