Skip to main content

Center for the Future of Arizona to Launch Southern Arizona Workforce Leadership Academy in Collaboration with Pima Community College & The Aspen Institute

Posted on January 18, 2023 • Category: News Release


TUCSON, Ariz. (Jan. 18, 2023) – Today, Center for the Future of Arizona (CFA) announces a Workforce Leadership Academy for Southern Arizona in partnership with Pima Community College and the Aspen Institute. The Academy is an application-based professional development opportunity for local workforce development leaders passionate about advancing Arizona's workforce development system. Those selected for the Southern Arizona Workforce Leadership Academy fellowship will be supported and mentored by an Advisory Council of senior leaders from across the region and will join a national network of changemakers. Applications are open now through March 3, 2023.

The workforce development system is a set of organizations and activities that prepares people for employment, helps workers advance in their careers, and seeks to build a skilled workforce to support employers and their local economy. Strengthening workforce development contributes to creating a stronger and brighter future for Arizona.

Workforce Leadership Academies bring leaders – recognized as Fellows of the Academy – from the local workforce together for a series of retreats, workshops, and action learning projects. Fellows work with leading practitioners throughout the country and locally as they deepen networks; strengthen systems leadership skills; apply racial equity and systems change frameworks to their work; and increase understanding of effective strategies and programs. Alums of the Academy become part of the Aspen Institute's Economic Opportunity Fellows Network.

Through a competitive application process, twenty-four Fellows will be selected to participate in the ten-month Southern Arizona Workforce Leadership Academy in 2023. The sponsoring organizations encourage senior-level managers from non-profit organizations, business associations, union-based training efforts, public agencies, and community colleges, who are in a position to foster change and empowered to do so, to apply.

"We are pleased to partner with Pima Community College and the Aspen Institute to bring the Workforce Leadership Academy to the Southern Arizona area,” stated Dr. Sybil Francis, President & CEO of Center for the Future of Arizona. “A high-capacity, responsive, and adaptable workforce system is essential to developing and sustaining the equitable and strong economic growth that Arizonans want. The Academy program expands and strengthens the capacity of our local workforce leaders to address system-based challenges.”

“We at Pima Community College are honored to partner with Center for the Future of Arizona and the Aspen Institute in this endeavor,” said Ian Roark, Vice Chancellor of Workforce Development & Innovation at Pima Community College. “With the leadership and support of our Board and our Chancellor/CEO, Lee Lambert, Pima has become a national leader in workforce development and a key partner in the ecosystem. The Southern Arizona Workforce Leadership Academy will bolster our common work across organizations in strengthening and aligning key plans and projects and help us identify and develop the next generation of workforce development leaders our community needs.”

The Southern Arizona Workforce Leadership Academy is the latest in a series of Academies held across the United States and Canada and is supported in part by the Aspen Institute and the Thomas R. Brown Family Private Foundation. After hosting a successful Greater Phoenix Academy in 2021-2022, CFA was selected to represent one of the eight cities selected by the Aspen Institute’s Economic Opportunities Program to host a Workforce Leadership Academy this year.

The Southern Arizona Workforce Leadership Academy will be conducted in a hybrid format throughout 2023, with opening and closing retreats in person, one monthly in-person session, and all other sessions held online. The program will be led locally by Holly Kurtz, Workforce Development Director at Center for the Future of Arizona, Amanda Abens, MC, Dean of Workforce Development and Lifelong Learning at Pima Community College, and a local Advisory Council that includes:

  • Barbra Coffee — Director, Economic Initiatives, City of Tucson
  • Susan Dumon — Senior Vice-President, Sun Corridor Inc.
  • Rob Elias — President & CEO, Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
  • Francisco Garcia — Deputy County Administrator, Pima County Arizona@Work
  • Mark Gaspers — Sr. Government Operations, The Boeing Company; Chair, Workforce Arizona Council
  • Michael Guymon — President & CEO, Tucson Metro Chamber
  • Todd Jaeger — Superintendent, Amphitheater Public Schools
  • Greg Madril — Director, Workforce Development, Tribal Nations, Pascua-Yaqui
  • Ted Maxwell — President, Southern Arizona Leadership Council
  • Krista McGarvey — Business Strategy Consultant, Arizona Office of Economic Opportunity
  • Tony Penn, President & CEO, United Way of Tucson and Southern Arizona
  • Kathy Prather — Superintendent & CEO, Pima JTED
  • Ian Roark — Vice Chancellor, Workforce Development & Innovation, Pima Community College
  • Kasey Urquidez — Vice President, Enrollment Management & Dean of Undergraduate Admissions, University of Arizona
  • Maria Zepeda — Statewide Strategic Initiative Manager, Arizona Department of Economic Security

Complimentary Info Sessions for interested applicants will be held on Thursday, Feb. 9, at 11am and Monday, Feb. 13 at 2pm. The deadline to submit applications is Friday, March 3, 2023. Learn more about the Academy, RSVP for the informational webinars, and apply at


About Center for the Future of Arizona
Center for the Future of Arizona is a nonprofit, nonpartisan "do-tank" that brings Arizonans together to create a stronger and brighter future for our state. Through survey research & reports, Arizona Progress Meters, and impact initiatives & programs, CFA listens to Arizonans to learn what matters most to them, shares trusted data about how Arizona is doing in those priority areas, brings critical issues to public attention, and works with communities and leaders to solve public problems. CFA leads impact initiatives and programs across the state and has deep and ongoing engagement in education, workforce development, and civic health, recognizing how essential these are to advancing economic prosperity, quality of life, and opportunity for all. Learn more at

About Pima Community College
Pima Community College is a comprehensive two-year institution serving students and employers throughout Pima County in Arizona and beyond. We welcome everyone striving to achieve a better life for themselves, their families, and their communities. Students have access to a broad range of high-quality programs that prepare them with the skills needed by today’s employers and to transfer successfully into four-year programs. Students benefit from Pima’s lower tuition costs and thrive at the highest levels once they transfer. Pima is in rapid transition to a high-tech institution serving the needs of our region’s growing aerospace, defense, and healthcare industries. Developing Centers for Excellence in key areas such as Applied Technology, Information Technology, and Health Professions, Pima is focused on strengthening partnerships and expanding employer engagement in order to ensure that today’s students are prepared now and for many years to come. For more information, visit

About the Aspen Institute Economic Opportunities Program
The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington DC. Its mission is to spark intellectual inquiry and exchange, create a diverse worldwide community of leaders committed to the greater good, and provide a nonpartisan forum for reaching solutions on vital public policy issues. The Aspen Institute Economic Opportunities Program advances promising strategies and policies to help low- and moderate-income Americans connect to and thrive in a changing economy. Over its 25 years of work, the Economic Opportunities Program has focused on expanding individuals' opportunities to connect to quality work, start businesses, and to build assets and economic stability.