Dr. Lisa Bly-Jones credits her experience at Moraine Valley with helping her choose a direction for her future career. “The general educational courses I took at Moraine Valley Community College helped me decide which major I wanted to pursue,” she said about her decision to major in media communications at Governors State University after receiving her associate degree. She enrolled at Moraine Valley when she moved to Justice a few years after graduating from high school and she appreciated the convenience of taking classes close to home that fit around her work schedule. Bly-Jones said the faculty cared about students and “they worked hard to make sure we understood and learned the concepts.”
She earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees before staying home to raise her two children, while also doing independent contract work. She later began working as an assistant director at South Suburban United Way, where she handled public relations and special events planning for the organization. She was then promoted to the chief professional officer of the South-Southwest Suburban United Way. While in that position, she remembers giving a presentation to Moraine Valley’s Administrative Council to encourage employees to support the United Way.
In 2008, Bly-Jones returned to Moraine Valley to serve as the assistant dean of the college’s Corporate, Community and Continuing Education department. She said, “At the United Way we evaluated programs we were funding to see what outcomes those programs had. As I got deeper into aspects of workforce development, my skills aligned well with the role at Moraine Valley.” In her new role, she provided direction for workforce and economic development activities, such as overseeing noncredit programs and courses, customized professional training, and community programs for adults, seniors and youth. She served as the interim dean for a while, as well.
Coming back to Moraine Valley as an employee was a full circle moment for her. “To experience it as a student and then as an employee, I got to really appreciate the quality and standards the college offers,” Bly-Jones said. She also noted how beneficial it was to meet people from many different backgrounds. “As a student and as an employee, I gained a rich diverse group of people to go to school with and to work with. The kind of a world experience I found on the campus opened me up to the world in a new way, and I appreciated that sense of global connection,” she said.
Bly-Jones worked in higher education for nearly a decade at Moraine Valley and later at Southwest Tennessee Community College, where she served as associate vice president of Workforce Development and Economic Development and Continuing Education. She earned her Doctor of Education degree during this time.
In 2017, she became the board executive director of The Workforce Connection, where she provided leadership and implementation of public/private workforce board initiatives and activities for Boone, Stephenson and Winnebago counties in Illinois. “I was responsible for helping ensure the initiatives served those individuals and employers who needed to be served,” she said. During her tenure at The Workforce Connection, she met Governor J.B. Pritzker on two occasions. She also had the opportunity to participate in White House conversations about workforce development, and she was especially proud of being a part of a webinar with U.S. Secretary of Labor Martin J. Walsh. “He wanted us to inform people about American Job Centers across the country and the services they offer,” Bly-Jones said.
During the pandemic, Bly-Jones launched the Workforce Wisdom podcast, where she discussed various workforce matters with people from different sectors and industry. “It was a way for me to get back to media communications because I am a journalist at heart. I am curious by nature, and there’s always an
interesting conversation to be had regrading workforce and what it means to develop a workforce,” she said.
Bly-Jones began a new position this month as the chief executive officer of the Chicago Jobs Council. “It is a dream job that brings all of my experiences together. In this role, I have a platform to be passionate about things concerning the workforce development system. I have the opportunity to have legislators’ ears and speak on behalf of those who are receiving services from the workforce system and those who are providing the services. I am honored to be a voice at a time when there is a need for one in the space of workforce development, as so much has changed in terms of the skills people need, the quality of jobs and what things look like in the COVID and post-pandemic world,” she said.
She believes her early educational experience contributed to her career success. “I always mention my associate degree because I believe a good foundation sets you up to go wherever your heart desires. I’m a proud Moraine Valley alumna,” Bly-Jones said.