Andrea Comer to succeed Judy Resnick as executive director

Outgoing Education Foundation executive director Judy Resnick with her successor, Andrea Comer.

CBIA's Education Foundation has been a trailblazing organization for building a skilled workforce in Connecticut since 1983. This spring, after serving with the foundation for 16 years: the last six as its executive director: Judy Resnick is retiring. Succeeding her is Andrea Comer, who comes to CBIA with a wealth of experience in public education and municipal government.

CBIA News asked Resnick and Comer to comment on the past, present, and future of the Education Foundation.

CBIA News: What impact has the foundation had in building a skilled workforce in Connecticut?

Resnick: I think we've helped elevate the issue of building a skilled workforce in Connecticut and its importance to our young people, families, employers, and economy. Talent has always been a competitive advantage for our state, but maintaining it has become a challenge, as evidenced by the state's education achievement gap and, more recently, the skills gap identified by many employers. We've been instrumental in developing creative collaborations that bring together education, government, and businesses to forge practical solutions. We've built a portfolio of sustainable, best-practice products and services to meet the needs of businesses and connect classroom teaching to the workplace. And we've been at the forefront of statewide discussions focusing on the achievement gap and a strategic plan for higher education.

CBIA News: How has the foundation changed young people's perceptions about finding good jobs?

Resnick: This is our passion: to give young people from all backgrounds the hope that they can achieve more than what they think is possible and the tools they need to do it. We're opening their eyes to high-wage, high-skill, in-demand careers by providing them with internship and job-shadowing opportunities. And we're helping them develop the employability and technical skills they need to succeed.

CBIA News (to Comer): How does your experience help you in your new role?

Comer: Having spent more than a decade working in municipal government, I know too well the impact on communities when access to employment or adequate job skills is limited. As a policymaker at the local and state levels, I recognize the ways in which policies influence a school district's ability to provide the kind of education that delivers on the promise of preparing children for their future. It's my hope to not only build on the amazing work that Judy and her team have started but to use my experience to enhance partnerships with government entities and further bridge the gap between those seeking jobs and those seeking a skilled workforce.

CBIA News: Where do you see the Education Foundation going from here?

Comer: The state is in a very different place from where it was when the foundation was established. I think the time is ideal for us to reevaluate our mission and vision. We exist to serve the needs of our members through education and workforce development; that will never change. But I want us to take a deep dive and look at how we accomplish that objective, how we can improve, and most importantly, how we can create sustainable change.

CBIA News: How do we maintain Connecticut's competitive advantage when it comes to a highly skilled workforce?

Resnick: We have to keep our eyes on ever-changing industry needs; strengthen ties between education, government, and business; and improve the responsiveness of our education and training systems. In Connecticut it also starts with addressing barriers: academic and financial: to give everyone the chance to succeed.

Comer: We can do it by being extremely thoughtful and strategic in terms of listening to businesses and ensuring our educational institutions are creating learning opportunities that produce the skilled workforce businesses need.