The PA Chamber Foundation is heading in a bold new direction under the leadership of Elizabeth Bolden, our new Executive Director. Elizabeth began her tenure with the PA Chamber Foundation in July after serving as President and CEO of the Pennsylvania Commission for Community Colleges. Her extensive experience across education, state government, budgeting, and finance, her time as an adjunct professor of political science, and her broad policy experience makes her a natural fit to lead the conversation about how we can better match job creators with job seekers in Pennsylvania and maximize our Commonwealth’s economic potential.
In a press release announcing Elizabeth’s appointment, PA Chamber President and CEO Luke Bernstein shared our organization’s collective excitement about the Foundation’s future.
“We are thrilled to welcome Elizabeth to our team,” he said. “Elizabeth’s exceptional leadership and unwavering commitment to educational excellence will make her an invaluable asset to our organization. Her passion for empowering students to pursue fulfilling careers, fostering innovation, and driving academic success directly aligns with our mission of making Pennsylvania the most economically competitive state in the nation. With Elizabeth’s leadership, I am confident our foundation will reach new heights – transforming lives and positioning our Commonwealth for a bright, prosperous future.”
We’re excited to delve a bit deeper into Elizabeth’s background, share her vision for the PA Chamber Foundation’s future, and even learn how service dogs inspire her life outside of work.
The PA Chamber’s focus is on improving the state’s competitiveness. How will you engage with that focus?
The Foundation will support research, programs, educational opportunities, and other initiatives to establish Pennsylvania as the preferred location where businesses and individuals can thrive. Our priorities include developing a long-range action plan to ensure that Pennsylvania is well positioned for the future, addressing Pennsylvania’s talent gaps, and supporting evidence-based efforts to improve the academic achievement and workforce preparedness of all Pennsylvania students.
What is one of the workforce development challenges facing Pennsylvania and what can be done about it?
Pennsylvania is blessed with abundant resources, including its people. Unfortunately, Pennsylvania has both one of oldest populations and slowest-growing population rates in the country. These demographic trends will have significant implications for our workforce and put the state’s economic growth and livability at risk.
One way that Pennsylvania can mitigate the impact of these trends is to establish a stable, open, and competitive business environment that is attractive to firms and entrepreneurs, and incentivizes them to locate in the state, bringing much needed innovation and economic activity. The Commonwealth should also create vibrant and welcoming communities that are attractive places to live and work. The Pennsylvania Chamber has long been adept at developing public policy strategies that get to the heart of addressing these issues, and the Foundation can be a great support to these strategies with a focus on research to get results.
PA has a skills gap – jobs are out there but there aren’t enough people to fill them. How can the state reverse this trend?
The skills gap – not enough people with the right education, skills, and training – is not just a Pennsylvania problem, it’s a worldwide problem. Pennsylvania must have a vision for its future that includes a plan to attract and retain a high-quality and adaptable workforce to meet employer demand.
The plan should include a redesign of Pennsylvania’s education and workforce development systems. We need systems that prepare students for the challenges and opportunities of the future, free from cumbersome and antiquated mandates that stymie innovation. This will require a review of current opportunities, identification of emerging trends, and a willingness to embrace new perspectives on the concepts of education and work so that we can prepare Pennsylvania’s workforce for the decades ahead.
How can the private sector and education entities work together to increase Pennsylvania’s economic potential?
I am continually impressed at the interest in, and willingness of, business and education leaders to collaborate to address challenges in the state’s education and workforce development systems and create more opportunity for Pennsylvanians. When the private sector and education entities think boldly and speak with a unified voice, they can have significant impact. The Chamber Foundation will facilitate these collaborations and support them with relevant data and research.
What are some of the early goals you have in your first months leading the PA Chamber Foundation?
The Foundation’s Board of Directors is key to its success, so I have been meeting with Foundation Chair Dick Ehst and the PA Chamber’s Board members to understand more about the Foundation’s history and its future potential. Not surprisingly, the importance of relaunching the Foundation with a renewed vision and focus to ensure it remains relevant and creates value is a common theme. One of my early goals is to finish these meetings with Board members and synthesize the feedback to develop a 2024 strategy for the Foundation.
What else would you like people to know about you?
Pennsylvania has been my home for decades; I currently reside in Cumberland County, just three miles from my childhood home. I frequently volunteer with Susquehanna Service Dogs, a nonprofit organization that trains dogs to assist individuals with disabilities, and also enjoy travelling, reading, and aeroponic gardening.