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January 2, 2020

Alistair Penny is an ISA manager at the Workforce Partnership. Here he tells a little bit about himself, both personally and professionally. 

What is a typical day like for you?

Alistair Penny's headshotThe thing I enjoy most about my job is how different every day is. While my routine includes spending time checking in with my analysts to see how our current Income Share Agreement (ISA) fund participants are doing and ensuring our operations are running smoothly, I also get to lead our efforts in growing the the fund with new classes and educational partners.
Right now we’re finalizing the launch of at least four new classes at UC San Diego Extension and are discussing multiple potential partnerships, which means I get to work with a wide range of different people across organizations that are looking to push boundaries and try new things.
Today I might be talking over potential curriculums, while tomorrow I’m troubleshooting the gaps that exist in our local job market and the next day, I’m considering the different financial models we could use. It all makes for a very exciting role and has even (dramatically) improved my organizational skills. 

If you had $30,000 to donate to a workforce development program, what would you want done with it?

During my time working in the tech field, I’ve seen how vital computer skills has become to most occupations. It’s always stuck out to me that this makes it increasingly difficult for those who are blind or have severe visual impairments to gain the skills they would need to get a job in almost every field and for a population that already has a lot stacked against them, it seems gratuitously unfair.
I’m passionate about sustainable programs such as income share agreements, but overall my goal is to help level the playing field. I would use that $30,000 to supply the visually impaired with laptops and software that are specifically designed for their needs. This would give them a chance to gain computer skills like everyone else so they can transfer those skills into a working environment. Perhaps the program could be combined with our current ISA program, where we’re training them to enter the workforce and start a career when they graduate.

What professional moment or project are you most proud of?

Without wanting to toot the Workforce Partnership’s horn too much, I do think what we’re doing with the ISA Fund is genuinely transformational. It’s still early days—our first students enrolled 6 months ago—but income share agreements could potentially revolutionize how we pay for education and much more.
As the first workforce board in the country doing this, we’re at the forefront of something that could have a huge impact on disadvantaged communities and that’s really something to be proud of. Every month it seems like we learn something new and find new opportunities to grow and evolve and that makes it really exciting to come to work each day.
Outside of the workforce field, the first startup I co-founded might have ended up going the way of the dinosaurs a bit sooner than I would have liked, but we built a working beta product with over 5,000 users before things took a left turn. The skills, habits and lessons that I learned from that were invaluable and it will always be something I look back on very fondly. RIP Dex. 
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