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Equipping Leaders to Better Prepare Children & Youth for College, Careers, & Citizenship

Joan L. Wills

Joan L. Wills

Senior Fellow

Headshot: Joan WillsJoan joined IEL in 1991 and established IEL’s Center for Workforce Development (CWD). CWD concentrates its work on the development and improvement of employment-related learning systems in the United States. She directed CWD until 20?? and is now a part-time IEL senior policy fellow.  Her work has focused on the development of new tools, such as skill and literacy standards; systems improvements, such as transition from school to work and adult literacy programs; and capacity of institutions, such as employer-led organizations working with education institutions and youth-serving agencies).

Her publications include
Using Individualized Learning Plans to Produce College and Career Ready High School Graduates,
Comprehensive Career Planning and Its Role in the Competitive Global Economy,
Preparing All Youth for Academic and Career Readiness: Implications for High School Policy and Practice,
Promoting New Seals of Endorsements in Career Technical Education for the National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium,
• Standards: Making Them Useful and Workable for the Education Enterprise for the U.S. Department of Education,
School Lessons, Work Lessons: Recruiting and Sustaining Employers Involvement in School-to-Work Programs with co-author Irene Lynn,
• Editor of Voices from the Field: Lessons from Employers and Intermediaries in School-to-Work, and
• Principal investigator for a four-volume study, Overview of Skill Standards Systems in Education and Industry: Systems in the U.S. and Abroad for the U.S. Department of Education.

Recently, Joan oversaw a multi-year research and development initiative in fifteen high schools in four states testing the efficacy of state-mandated individualized learning plans as a graduation requirement. She was the original principal investigator for the National Collaborative on Workforce Development for Youth (NCWD/Youth), comprised of several organizations to deliver technical assistance to and build the capacity of workforce development organizations providing comprehensive services to young people with disabilities. Wills has also focused on connections between employers and industry with education and training providers, the implementation of lessons learned via the School-to-Work initiative in local and state policy and practice, and research-based approaches to the redesign of state workforce development systems. She also continues a long-standing advisor role to the National Skill Standards Board. She recently managed a six-state education policy mapping study as a part of IEL's leadership development work.

Prior to joining IEL, Ms. Wills served as project manager of the Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce that issued the report, America's Choice: High Skills or Low Wages!  She was the director of the Center for Policy Research at the National Governor's Association for several years, and, prior to that, served as a gubernatorial appointee in two states—Ohio and Illinois—as director of workforce development agencies. Before time spent in state government, she worked at the local level in Columbus, Ohio, for the planning arm of the United Way, and helping to create and manage the local anti-poverty agency.

Joan has considerable international experience through work done for the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the Inter-American Development Bank, and U.S. Agency for International Development, all centered on education and workforce development issues. She serves on the board of the Athena Alliance. She was a member of the national Work Readiness Council and assisted in the development of a new credential for entry-level workers. She is a member of the National Skills Standards Board Institute and is a past chair of the National Youth Employment Coalition. Joan has served as advisor to the National School Boards Association and the National Urban League. She served as a senior scholar for the National Center on the Educational Quality of the Workforce and was a presidential appointment to the Commission for Employment and Unemployment Statistics. She also has served as a member of the boards of the Corporation for Enterprise Development; American Council on Education's Commission on Education Credit and Credentials; the National Vocational-Technical Education Honor Society; the Workforce Excellence Board; the Development Training Institute; Youthwork, Inc.; National Child Labor Committee; and U.S. Basics. She has served on several advisory panels for a variety of organizations, including the Council of Chief State School Officers, the Aspen Institute, the Office of Technology Assessment, and the National Academy of Sciences.

She earned an undergraduate degree at Franklin College in Indiana and a graduate degree in social work at Ohio State University in social work.