Fellowship - Cohort 4

The Fellowship for Education & Talent Development annually selects 20 chamber of commerce executives and senior staff to participate in a nine-month professional development program designed to assist them in improving education and talent development outcomes in their communities.

Through interaction with chamber peers, ACCE staff and national experts, participants expand their professional network and build a support system to guide their education and talent development work, now and into the future. The fellowship is a deep dive into the cutting edge theories, approaches and best practices in the talent development space, through a combination of in-person meetings, expert consultations and peer engagement. Throughout the program, fellows develop and execute a plan for specific education and talent development objectives in the form of a regional action project (RAP). For more information about the Fellowship, contact Amy Shields at

2017-2018 Cohort


Kristi Barr, Director of Workforce Development and Education, Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce (Ark.)

This Regional Action Plan seeks to work with education stakeholders to create a talent pipeline that will improve the educated workforce in the Little Rock area. The chamber will accomplish this through disseminating positive workforce and education campaigns throughout schools, creating partnerships with technical and higher education institutions and implementing methods to measure and monitor success.


Travis Burton, Manager of Public Affairs, Kentucky Chamber of Commerce (Ky.)

This plan seeks to create clear language to help educators implement soft skill education into their curriculum. The chamber brought together business, education, and community stakeholders to create a list of essential skills for students to learn. In addition, the Kentucky Chamber created a Kentucky Work Ethic Certificate to outline measurable outcomes for students to attain these skills.


Cathy Burwell, President & CEO, Helena Area Chamber of Commerce (Mont.)

The Helena Area Chamber of Commerce analyzed workforce and community data and built a workforce development plan tailored to the needs of employers and potential employees. The strategy engages key stakeholders in industry, education, and government. The plan is to create talent pipelines by providing work-based learning opportunities, career awareness initiatives and career exploration programs.


Tim Cairl, Director of Education Policy, Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce (Ga.)

The Metro Atlanta Chamber has evaluated the needs of its community and outlined a four-step plan to execute its goal of creating quality accessible childcare for families in the area. In addition, the chamber is engaged with Atlanta's Learn4Life program which expands effective practices in schools to district or county-wide efforts. The steps to launching the effort include distributing media, releasing an economic impact report, recruiting investors and philanthropic partners and creating and implementing a policy plan.


Brett Campbell, Ed.D., Senior Vice President for Education and Workforce, Tulsa Regional Chamber of Commerce (Okla.)

This plan has identified four pillars of growth that will drive the Tulsa Chamber’s strategy. The goal is to increase credential, degree, and certificate attainment. This plan highlights the Guided Pathways Initiative funded by the Gates Foundation that chose 30 colleges across the nation, including Tulsa Community College. The Chamber enhance the statewide pathways model to give students more structure, clarity and access to jobs and specific training.


Christopher Cooney, IOM,CCE, President and CEO, Metro South Chamber of Commerce (Mass.)

This proposal seeks to use mobile labs in underserved communities to give them direct and convenient access to skills training. The mobile lab will circulate through parts of the city and offer training in courses such as healthcare, IT, Microsoft Office and more. English as a second language courses will be taught as well to service the majority immigrant population of the area.


Jonathan Davis, Director of Workforce Initiatives, Augusta Metro Chamber of Commerce (Ga.)

Students2Work is advocating for high school internships and other experiential learning opportunities by securing commitments from local employers to hire interns. It is also creating a pool of student applications and matching them with a paid internship that would be of highest interest to them. In addition to the regular training programs, they will have training on soft skills, professionalism, and career planning. Another element of this RAP is direct parent engagement with the employers as well as pre-outlined internship requirements for employers.


Melanie D'Evelyn, Manager of Education Attainment, Detroit Regional Chamber Foundation (Mich.)


Dexter Freedman II, Vice President of Operations and Administration, Irving-Las Colinas Chamber of Commerce (Texas)

The Irving-Las Colinas Chamber is seeking to compile and publish data addressing the talent gap in the community. By gathering community stakeholders in business and education, it will assess data from multiple sources in order to develop a plan of action based on specific needs and results. The chamber will collaborate with The Graduate! Network's Bridging the Talent Gap Initiative since they share overlapping goals.


Christy Gillenwater, IOM, CCE, President & CEO, Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce (Tenn.)

The Healthcare Alliance seeks to create a direct talent pipeline into the healthcare sector by introducing credentialing opportunities to students between the ages of 16-24. This will expose them to learn in a hands-on way as well as to graduate high school with credentials that will go toward the rest of their career. The broader goal is to positively influence the Chattanooga healthcare system as a whole.


Angelle Laborde, IOM, CCE, President and CEO, Greenwood Area Chamber of Commerce (S.C.)

This plan sets strategic community partnership goals in the business and education industries to establish high school programs that promote and teach soft skills and professional development. In addition, stakeholders will aid in the creation of pathways, pipelines, and other modes for employers to engage directly with students.


Meghan Lewis, Government Affairs Manager, North Carolina Chamber of Commerce (N.C.)

The North Carolina Chamber of Commerce is conducting a Regional Workforce Analysis to assess and address the state of North Carolina's workforce. After publishing the research, the chamber will work with policymakers, economic development authorities and other workforce stakeholders to strengthen workforce development outcomes throughout the state.


Amber Mooney, Manager of Government Affairs, The Business Council of New York State (N.Y.)

The first goal of this regional action plan was to develop data-driven communications highlighting the business communities' involvement in educational policy. In addition, the chamber also published a brochure entitled "New York State P-TECH: A solution for a skilled workforce" about their Pathways in Technology Early College High School program. By distributing information surrounding its successful initiatives, the BCNYS hopes to influence the entire state to take similar steps.


Gilda Ramirez, Ed.D., Vice President of Small Business and Education, United Corpus Christi Chamber of Commerce (Texas)

This action plan seeks to implement a workforce advisory board comprised of community stakeholders that will serve the specific needs of the region. The second goal is to increase work-based learning opportunities and create career awareness through online marketing. The online internship and apprenticeship portal was created in December of 2017, and it features education and employment opportunities.


Chris Roomer, IOM, President & CEO, Vail Valley Partnership (Colo.)

This program offers three-year apprenticeships for high school students in the areas of IT, finance and manufacturing. The apprenticeships provide students hands-on learning experiences, the opportunity to earn credentials and debt-free college credit, while earning an hourly income. This program is made possible through community partnerships.


JoAnn Sasse Givens, Director of Workplace Development, Effingham County Chamber of Commerce (Ill.)

The Effingham County Chamber conducted a skills gap analysis to align education outcomes with career opportunities. The chamber identified action steps to aid students with education/career alignment and established priorities around housing, diversity and inclusion, work-based learning opportunities, and overall system enhancement.


Mary Ann Sheahan, Executive Director of Vermont Talent Pipeline, Vermont Business Roundtable (Vt.)

By defining clear, data-driven goals, the Vermont Business Roundtable seeks to identify population targets and potential partners, raise awareness around employer defined career pathways and educational programs, and provide partners with funding mechanisms and performance indicators. Focusing on measurable outcomes and data-driven standards will allow for continuous improvement to workforce initiatives in the area.


Barbara Stapleton, Vice President of Workplace and Education, Greater Topeka Partnership (Kan.)

The Greater Topeka Partnership is taking a holistic approach towards workforce development. TogetherTopeka is the Cradle-to-Career Pipeline partnership program that has already been established. By implementing measurable outcomes to monitor the success of the program, the chamber will document what works and share that information with others who want to create similar initiatives.


Sherry Taylor, President and CEO, Mason Deerfield Chamber of Commerce (Ohio)

This regional action plan focuses on regional attractiveness and talent retention. Taking a holistic approach to creating a community that people would want to live, work and play will create jobs in the long run. The chamber will focus on quality of life and access to training and education. One important aspect of this plan is the establishment and marketing of the region's talent brand. In addition to spreading the word about the community that they envision, they also want to continue to work on existing programs and partnerships that can possibly aid in their efforts.


Emily Ward, Vice President of Foundation Supports and Grant Management, Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce (N.Y.)

After analyzing the challenges and opportunities that are present in the Brooklyn area, the chamber has identified strategies to address the city's workforce gap. By being the convener for the employers, workforce development initiatives, and educators, the chamber can provide a common space to problem-solve. In addition, the chamber can attract more talent and workforce development services to the area and create programs such as business mentorships and more.

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