The New Roadmap to Talent: Leveraging Workforce Development Policy, Education and Employer Innovation

2021 Workplace Policy Conference

Employers of every size and industry identify with the struggle to successfully recruit, retain and develop a talented workforce.  As employers look to fill open positions, untapped talent – people of color, people with disabilities, opportunity youth, people with criminal records and veterans – need to be part of a successful workforce strategy. 

In this session, panelists will discuss innovative skills-based training programs and inclusion techniques that have proven to be the most effective at integrating underutilized talent pools back into the labor force.

Learning Objectives:

  1. Learn of inclusive policies that promote the hiring of untapped talent pools and how to utilize those policies to become an agent of change within your organization.
  2. Hear real life examples of how private and nonprofit organizations are working to develop leadership and train talent in innovative ways.
  3. Gain a fundamental understanding of gold star industry standards for hiring older workers and individuals with disabilities, including training people managers in effective methods to engage and interact with these unique segments of the workforce.
Date(s) & Time(s): 
Monday, April 19, 2021 - 2:00pm to 2:50pm

Heather Tinsley-Fix


Heather Tinsley-Fix is a Senior Advisor at AARP, where she leads the organization’s work on employer engagement and helps drive AARP’s focus on providing workers 50+ with the tools they need to thrive in today’s work environment.  With a background in marketing, innovation, and program management, Heather works with employers and job seekers, external partners, and academics to provide thought leadership on 50+ labor market issues and create practical resources that enable employers to capitalize on the value of experience. 

Wendi Safstrom


Wendi Safstrom is a senior non-profit leader committed to serving the public through philanthropic program management, cultivating strategic partnerships and managing and developing high performing teams.   Ms. Safstrom has both association and nonprofit management experience including; national program development and administration, membership strategy, marketing and product development, grant management, development and donor stewardship, and leading cross functional teams.  Ms. Safstrom currently serves as Executive Director for the Society for Human Resource Management Foundation (SHRM Foundation), where she leads the development and implementation of SHRM Foundation's programmatic, development, and marketing and communication strategies in support of SHRM Foundation's new mission and vision, creating growth plans and ensuring alignment with SHRM goals.

 Prior to assuming the role at SHRM Foundation, Ms. Safstrom served as Vice President at the National Restaurant Association and National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation, where she led the development and implementation of their Foundation's most recent five-year strategic plan, and was responsible for all Foundation programming, including workforce development initiatives, scholarship and event management, community relations and engagement initiatives.  The NRAEF's philanthropic programming supported a number of audiences including high school youth, veterans transitioning from service to civilian work and life, opportunity youth and incumbent workers.  Of particular note, Ms. Safstrom lead the implementation of the restaurant industry's premier high school career and technical education program, growing the program to over 2,000 public high schools, engaging over 150,000 students annually, nationwide.  In 2016, she served as lead project director for the development of a $10M contract awarded by the US Department of Labor to develop the hospitality industry's first apprenticeship program, and was instrumental in the Foundation's reorganization and relocation of operations from Chicago, Illinois to Washington, D.C., transforming the staff and culture.

 Ms. Safstrom has also held human resource management roles with the Leo Burnett Company and Hyatt Hotels Corporation in Chicago, Illinois.  Ms. Safstrom has a BS in Business Administration from the Eli Broad School of Business at Michigan State University and was recognized as a member of the 2014 "Power 20" by Restaurant Business Magazine as a leader in philanthropy within the restaurant industry.  A native of Seattle, Washington, Ms. Safstrom and her husband reside in Old Town, Alexandria VA.


Meg O'Connell


Ms. O’Connell is the Founder & CEO of Global Disability Inclusion. She is an internationally recognized disability employment and inclusion expert with over 20 years of experience in human capital management, talent acquisition, performance management, disability inclusion, employee engagement, marketing and customer service programs. 

Ms. O’Connell provides strategic program design and implementation of disability employment and inclusion programs for Global 500 companies, US Federal Contractors, colleges and universities, non-profits, and foundations.

Prior to founding Global Disability Inclusion, Ms. O’Connell was Vice President at The National Organization on Disability where she designed and led their national consulting practice, Bridges to Business, providing disability inclusion expertise to Fortune 500 companies.  She was the lead architect of the first ever disability assessment tool, The Disability Employment Tracker, and led the analysis of the first data captured on employee engagement of people with disabilities.

Ms. O’Connell also spent ten years at the premier consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton.  She was a member of the firm’s People Strategy team and led several large-scale talent management projects and diversity & inclusion efforts that transformed business operations for her clients. 

While at Booz Allen, Ms. O’Connell developed and led their employee resource group for employees with disabilities, and won Booz Allen’s Global Diversity Award for Individual Contributor. Booz Allen was also one of the first recipients of the New Freedom Initiative Award for their disability employment programs.

Her work has received numerous accolades including the Society of Human Resource Management’s (SHRM’s) Innovative Practice Award.  She has been quoted in Diversity Executive magazine, The Huffington Post, DiverseAbility and numerous trade magazines for her insights on employment of people with disabilities.  She keynotes and presents at national conferences regularly.  Ms. O’Connell holds a certificate in ADA Mediation and she is also conversationally proficient in American Sign Language.

A few of O’Connell’s notable clients have included Aetna, Arrow Electronics, Cummins, HBO, JLL, Lowe’s, NCR, P&G, The Poses Family Foundation, Starbucks, Toys R Us, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), Understood 4 All, IRS and the Department of Homeland Security.

Ms. O’Connell is a board member of the United States International Council on Disabilities, which serves to promote global equality for persons with disabilities and is working to promote and ratify the Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities.   She is also an expert resource to The Valuable 500, a global organization working with CEOs to include disability on their board agendas.

Mary Wright


Mary V. L. Wright, manager, apprenticeship at the SHRM Foundation, is responsible for implementing the US DOL funded HR Registered Apprenticeship Program, the first national HR apprenticeship program.   As such, she is responsible for all parts of the program – development, marketing, sales, budget and evaluation. 

Ms. Wright has many years of experience connecting the public and private sectors in municipal finance, government affairs, and workforce development as a project leader, facilitator and subject matter expert.

Previously, Ms. Wright was a director at Jobs for the Future (JFF) where she designed and supervised the completion of foundation, government and employer-funded projects on topics including: expanding employability skills, developing apprenticeship and work-based learning strategies, utilizing labor market information to determine educational focus, better hiring and training practices for people with disabilities, improving entry level jobs for the retail sector, determining the correct educational focus for specific geographic areas including the state of Florida and Columbus Ohio, and an in-depth analysis of green infrastructure jobs.

Prior to joining JFF, she served as director at The Conference Board in New York City, driving its work in workforce readiness, business, and education partnerships. She also focused on improving the employment outcomes for people with disabilities through research and convenings. Ms. Wright co-authored or acted as project director on several key Conference Board reports regarding workforce readiness skills, including Are They Really Ready to Work? and The Ill-Prepared Workforce.

She is also a Non-Resident Senior Policy Fellow for Workforce Development at the Institute for Work & the Economy. She also serves on the Board of Directors of the Institute and chairs the Institute’s Achieving the Promise of Work initiative.

Ms. Wright received a Master of Business Administration in public/nonprofit management from Columbia University and a Bachelor of Arts in Urban Affairs from Connecticut College.


Session Type: 
Concurrent Session
Hide from On Demand: