SPRINGFIELD – J. William "Bill" Ward, longtime leader in the region's workforce development arena as well as president and CEO of the Regional Employment Board of Hampden County (REB), will step down from his position at the end of this year or in early 2014.|
Ward has served in his position with the REB for 32 years and was the driving force behind the organization's leadership and innovation in a number of workforce initiatives including the development of One-Stop career centers in FutureWorks in Springfield and CareerPoint in Holyoke, which serve 20,000 job seekers annually.
The REB's Board of Directors has established a Search Committee to identify the organization's next leader. A successor will be selected by the end of 2013. Information on the position can be found at www.rebhc.org.
In a career that has been primarily focused on creating access to employment and self-sufficiency for the region's low-income citizens, it was under Ward's leadership that the REB established the Minority Employment Program in the 1980s. This initiative found employment for approximately 500 people a year during the program's existence. The REB opened its first competitively bid One-Stop Career Centers in 1992, which were recognized by the National Alliance of Business as the One-Stop Centers of the Year.
Ward launched the Center for Youth Internships and Employment to prepare disadvantaged youth for employment and formed the Women's Mentoring Partnership, designed to help women transition from welfare to work matching low-income women with professional women in the business world for mentorship and support.
According to Joseph Peters, Board of Directors chair, said, "Bill understands the critical importance of workforce development as it relates to the economic health of our region. He developed a statewide and national reputation in workforce development for his understanding of the connection between educational development in early childhood and up through the training and re-training of adults and incumbent workers. He developed a team at the REB that was able to respond to the ever-changing needs of employers in identifying qualified workers. Bill's talents will be missed. He leaves very big shoes to fill at the REB."
In 1992, Ward founded the Literacy Volunteer Network that trained more than 400 volunteers to tutor adult learners in English literacy skills. The Literacy Works initiative formed in his tenure has coordinated various literacy initiative in the region.
Under his leadership an early literacy program, Talk/Read/Succeed, earned local and national funding as it aimed to raise the literacy skills of young children living in Springfield Public Housing centers.
The REB, under Ward's direction, started a precision manufacturing initiative designed to replace retiring workers in the industry with the next generation of machinists by strengthening training and outreach at vocational schools in the region.
Ward has been recognized by state and national organizations for excellence and innovation in workforce development including the Commonwealth Corporation and the National Association of Workforce Boards. The Hampden County REB was one of the first in the nation to include universal pre-kindergarten, kindergarten through 12th grade, post secondary education, adult literacy and incumbent workforce training into a comprehensive workforce development strategy.
Ward has also been recognized for taking a leadership role in promoting community justice. In 2010 he received the Human Relations Award from the National Conference for Community and Justice. In 2009, BusinessWest honored him as a Difference Maker for his contributions to community and in making a difference in the quality of life in the Pioneer Valley.
His community service and engagement include service as board president of the Association of Community Living, Abilities Unlimited/Kamp for Kids and Partners for a Healthier Community. He also serves on the board of Friends of the Homeless of Greater Springfield.
Ward is a co-founder of the Economic Development Partners, a regional group of economic development professionals who manage business prospects for growth in relocation in the region. He also plays a leadership role in the Massachusetts Workforce Investment Board's Directors Association, serving on its Executive Committee and past terms as vice chair and treasurer.
He is also a member of the Workforce Innovators Network, a membership of leaders in workforce development who consistently experiment with and implement new ideas. Ward has authored articles for "Workforce Board Leadership" and has master's degrees in theology and psychology.
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