Expanding the workforce pipeline: reflections on a year of our community of practice

Photo: Pexels / Fauxels

A central part of the Global Business Coalition for Education’s Skills Friendly Cities initiative’s Bright Ideas, Bright Cities Challenge was the Community Impact Incubator program.

Last year, the Global Business Coalition for Education awarded a $100,000 grand prize for the inaugural Big Ideas, Bright Cities Challenge winner, while each of 15 finalist organizations received micro-grants to scale up and improve their impact. This cohort of selected nonprofit leaders also benefited from the Community Impact Incubator program, learning from each other’s experiences and participating in workshops with experts in various fields – including leaders from the program funders at Dell and Deloitte. 

All winners and finalists were invited to join eight incubator sessions, sharing their difficulties and solutions and building new partnerships, all aimed at helping their efforts to provide access, equity, and sustainable pathways to careers for young people across the US.  

With the Global Business Coalition for Education soon to announce a second challenge, we talked to three finalists and a runner-up from the first cohort about their involvement so far. 


Philadelphia Works

Kimberly McCaffrey is Senior Manager, Youth Workforce System, at Philadelphia Works. The Career Connected Learning system is a partnership of community-based organizations, education institutions and employers that introduces students from middle school upwards in the metro Philadelphia area to career possibilities and helps employers develop strong and diverse talent pipelines.  

“We’re trying to help young people learn about careers that we know are going to be there five to ten years from now.”  

“It’s really helpful to hear that we’re not alone in doing this work and that across the country we are all trying to connect workforce and education in the best way possible.” 

“It’s interesting to see the variety of projects that the Global Business Coalition for Education has brought together. Philadelphia Works is the local workforce development board, we are stewards of state and federal money. It’s exciting to learn from others about how they are using private or foundation investments to support these efforts.”  

“Hearing from someone who’s been through that process and has had some success. That is something that we would not have got from another place.” 

Orlando Community & Youth Trust

Bambi McDougald is Youth Employment Program Manager at the City of Orlando. The Orlando Community & Youth Trust was a runner-up in the challenge. Its Youth Employment Program provides career guidance and preparation, job training, and job placement to youth aged between 15 and 25. 

“What I found useful in the community of practice was getting a fresh look at some of the initiatives that people around the nation are taking on and lifting, and how issues are being tackled in different cities.  

“In one session we were asked to bring an issue to the table, we just listened to each other and help each other navigate things and find a solution that works for our specific institution. I felt that was so helpful.  

“Two volunteers presented an issue and we went around the group and modelled what it would look like to provide solid support.  

“The facilitators called it ‘sitting on the balcony’.  A problem is presented but instead of jumping in people go to [an imaginary] balcony to take step back, consider the full picture, the full view. For example, if you’re talking about an HR problem, perhaps it doesn’t just have an HR solution.  

“It’s about learning to take a moment and actually hear each other and then discuss solutions.”  

“I took some of those lessons back to my team – ‘how to solve this’, ‘how can we navigate this together without me pushing you to take a particular perspective’.” 


Arvada Chamber of Commerce

Kami Welch is President and CEO of the Arvada Chamber of Commerce in Jefferson County, Colorado and a key partner in Grow Jeffco, a collaboration of the K-12 system, community colleges, economic development, chambers, non-profits, and workforce development organizations.  

Jeffco has opened the first of a planned 20 career hubs in high schools across the county. The aim is to reduce the disconnect and inequity between school-to-career awareness and employment opportunities. 

“We hear from our businesses pretty regularly that their talent needs aren’t being met, that people don’t have the skills they need when they’re coming into the workforce. The biggest challenges that we’re facing is really that misalignment. We’re embedding into the high school system the idea of career training and readiness. 

“The biggest thing for me about the incubator sessions is that it’s been great to build a network of other people that care about this work across our country, and being able to share resources.  

“There was a session devoted to funding. People talked about how they were funding their work and really thinking about sustainability, to ensure that we’re not just a one-hit wonder and that we’re all thinking long term.  

“Hearing different perspectives is really helpful because if somebody’s made that mistake before me, I can learn from them and not repeat it. 

“It’s actually essential to build networks like this. I think we all are better for it and making sure that we build that structure of people we can call upon and learn from is what is ultimately going to ensure our success in this work.  

“Sustainability is such a key piece and I have genuine concerns that we’re all doing really great work right now. But we need to make sure we continue it and with the same vigor that we have today. This is a good motivation tool.” 

E2E Partners 

Jeffrey West is Executive Director of E2E Partners in Corpus Christi, Texas, which is soon to open a Youth Opportunity Center providing young people with education and training information to prepare them for high-demand jobs, enroll in education and skills development programs, and offering social services that lower barriers to education and employment. 

“The experience of the incubator and being a GBC-Education finalist has given us a level of recognition and exposure that has been really beneficial for us. So much so that it’s allowed us to find other grant funders to invest in our work for year one.   

“The Challenge was definitely a positive influencer. It has allowed us to say [to funders], ‘Hey, we’re part of this, in addition to this, in addition to that’.  

“A lot of the social media and the recognition we’ve got from the challenge has been a part of our application to other philanthropies and that does strengthen the application. It makes funders a little bit more comfortable with giving us money. As you know, fundraising is always a challenge. 

“It’s been good to be a part of the incubator sessions. I’ve made some good connections across the country, with other areas doing the similar work to what we’re doing.  

“GBC-Education is doing a great job of getting communities together and really thinking through some stakeholder engagement and community vision conversations.” 

Applications for the next Big Ideas Bright Cities challenge will open soon, growing our Community Incubator program and offering new learning opportunities for the next cohort of winners and finalists. 

“We have young people who are disconnected from education and employment. We want to give them a safe place where they can come in and get their basic needs met, but also get real-time guidance for connection back into education or into meaningful jobs. 

Jeffrey West, Executive Director, E2E Partners

Related Insights

See all Insights