Launching sector partnerships in health, electronics manufacturing, and logistics: a Q&A with Cinda Herndon-King

December 17, 2015

Cinda Herndon-King is the Director at Atlanta CareerRise.

Can you tell us a little about your professional background? What brought you to your position of Director at CareerRise?

I spent most of my career in economic development and public private partnerships. I have a PhD in biochemistry which eventually led me to life science and entrepreneurial ventures. I moved into the workforce arena through the life science industry, particularly through sector partnerships developing career pathways from high school to technical college to university and post-graduate training programs. One of the programs I worked with as a volunteer targeted single mothers, and I’ve always wanted to work with underserved populations and those with barriers to succeed.  

How did you leverage your expertise in biochemistry and life science into a career in workforce development?

I received my PhD at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and did my post doc at Penn State. My first job was around diversification and I found it innovative and fun in developing new ways to solve problems. I focused on public private partnerships and science opportunities that invested public funds to grow local economies.  This experience allowed me to ask and answer questions like – how do you develop your product to serve a need and differentiate it from other solutions? The skills you learn in science are really helpful with the work I’m doing now. In fact, I found that starting a company has much in common with organizing sector partnerships and a funders collaborative. I have found the social services side of the work challenging – it often is not very logical and deep in complexity and implications, but you have to learn to deal with the intangible parts.

What do you feel has been your most meaningful accomplishment during your tenure at CareerRise?

We’ve been able to organize and launch sector partnerships in health, electronics manufacturing, and logistics. That’s very meaningful.  I am most proud that the work we’ve done that has contributed to elevating the focus on frontline and middle skill workers. Another meaningful accomplishment is how we’ve been able to make a lot of moving parts in workforce more cohesive.  As I look at all the people we are working with  – including agencies, employers, CBOs, funders, and others – CareerRise has been the glue that has strengthened connections between our partners on low wage adult issues. There are a lot more people engaged in that work that now know each other and regularly share ideas, practices and problems than before.

When did you first get involved with NSC, and why?

I first heard about NSC through the Southern States Skills gap report. It was the first thing I read when I got on the job. The report was so clear and very helpful in framing the opportunity. My investors received input on our strategic planning process through NSC’s field director Jessie. She has been an advisor on and off and has been very generous in giving advice and helping us link into important national opportunities. For example, the different updates NSC does on WIOA has been a great mechanism to connect our CBOs to national practices. I have also had amazing interactions with BLU; the employer expertise and involvement is very helpful and we partner with them by supporting our employers attendance at their Annual Fly–In. In fact this interaction with BLU was key in developing local champions who are taking an increasing leadership role in the region’s workforce agenda.