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Jeran Culina and Jolie Bernard   ·  

Navigating the Talent Pipeline Through Strategic Workforce Development: A conversation with Jolie Bernard.

In celebration of Women’s History Month, we delve into an insightful conversation with Jolie Bernard, a prominent member of Business Leaders United (BLU) and a driving force in the field of workforce development. As the Senior Manager of Business Leaders United, Jeran Culina engages with Jolie to explore the significance of skills training in her company, The Bernard Group, LLC , and the broader impact of advocating for employer-led workforce development initiatives.


Jeran: Why is skills training important to your company? What has your company done to work on developing a talent pipeline?

Jolie: I know that workforce development and skills training programs play a pivotal role in fostering economic growth and development in our ever-evolving world and because my mentor and colleague, Terry Simmons, is constantly reminding all of us in business, “that in order to grow the workforce, we must groom the workforce,” my company deliberately contributes to helping young talent and emerging professionals position and posture themselves to be workforce ready. Our collective efforts as well as the intentionality of The Bernard Group not only equip individuals with the necessary skills and knowledge to meet the demands of the market, but we also contribute to building a resilient and competitive workforce. By investing in continuous learning and upskilling, we are uniquely positioned to empower talent to adapt to technological advancements and industry shifts, positioning them at the forefront of innovation and productivity.


Jeran: What do you value most about being connected to the work of BLU and NSC?

Jolie: I am proud to be aligned with the work that Business Leaders United and National Skills Coalition is doing every day to ensure the facilitation of inclusive, high-quality skills training that enables people across industry to access a better life while helping local businesses see sustained growth. As an entrepreneur that wears many hats daily, knowing that BLU and NSC are advocating for me as an employer as well as for the people I rely on to work with me to keep my businesses and interests moving forward progressively definitely gives me peace of mind.


Jeran: Why should other employers get involved in advocating for employer-led workforce development initiatives and skills training?   

Jolie: I believe that often times, small businesses may view workforce development and training as an overwhelming task or activity to integrate into the everyday operating system and culture of the company, but it’s an incredible opportunity to help develop and shape the competencies of emerging talent as well as already skilled individuals.

By committing to prioritizing workforce development initiatives and skills training, we have a unique opportunity to make a significant impact on the workforce pipeline. By engaging with each other, economic development organizations in our respective geographies as well as chambers of commerce, educational institutions, industry associations, and larger companies in our regions, we can provide valuable insights into what’s needed now and into the future. Workforce development is not only crucial for our individual companies but also for the overall economic growth and sustainability of our respective communities and the people we depend on to grow, scale, and sustain our businesses.


Jeran: BLU and NSC have championed efforts around skills training policies that have an eye to a diverse talent pipeline. In your experience how have you seen racial equity play a role in the work you are doing in skills training or workforce development?

Jolie: I believe it is of critical importance to prioritize racial equity and cultural competency training in our everyday workforce development practices. For me, the major key to having a good business is to be a good business so I must focus on racial equity and justice in everything I do as a Black woman business owner. It’s about so much more than just working with and hiring people from racially diverse backgrounds. But more importantly, racial equity for me and my businesses is all about doing our part to address and hopefully eliminate racial disparities while trying to improve the conditions of historically marginalized groups. And ultimately, my goal is to continue to contribute to the process and practice of harmonizing the ideology that racial equity works toward racial justice and when my children are preparing to enter the workforce, my greatest hope is that the concept of the absence of systemic inequities that hold back certain groups of people may not be a barrier for them to realize their greatest potential and be productive and successful along their journeys.