Principal Strategist, Workforce Engagement
Iowa City, IA
Debra Lyons is Principal Strategist, Workforce Engagement. In this role, she uses her experience and entrepreneurial skills to successfully launch a new, national external engagement effort focused on workforce advancement. She also serves as Executive Director to the National Workforce Solutions Advisory Board, an organization of c-level business leaders who provide guidance to ACT on navigating the national workforce development landscape. Most recently, she served as Vice President of Community and Economic Development for ACT, Inc. In this position, she led a national effort to provide community based workforce solutions to states to drive economic growth and greater productivity. Lyons is the chief architect for ACT Work Ready Communities, a unique opportunity ACT, as a 501c3 public trust, provides to all states. ACT Work Ready Communities is a data driven approach designed to take ACT workforce solutions to help states and communities to align resources, establish goals, use information to close skills gap and develop a workforce aligned to the needs of employers. She oversaw the initiative from its conception to currently being active in twenty four states and hundreds of counties. Under her leadership, ACT Work Ready Communities was the recipient of the International Economic Development Council’s Human Capital Award – Populations greater than 500,000 in October 2014.
Prior to this role, she served as the Executive Director for the Governor’s Office of Workforce Development for Governor Sonny Perdue. She was responsible for advising the Governor on workforce development policy and implementing initiatives to strengthen the state’s workforce development enterprise. Lyons oversaw not only the start-up of the Governor’s Office of Workforce Development, but was the pioneer and architect of Georgia Work Ready, a one-of-kind workforce development system that links education and workforce development and aligns to the economic development needs of the state, its regions and communities. Georgia Work Ready was recently honored with the Governor’s Award for Customer Service – 2008 Team Excellence, the Technology Association of Georgia’s Excalibur Award, 2008, the Georgia Bio Community Award, 2009 and the ACT Community Award, 2009.
Before joining ACT, she served as Executive Director for Workforce Development Strategies for the Technical College System of Georgia. Lyons is the former owner of Debra Lyons Technical Consulting, a consulting firm specializing in providing training solutions focused on improving manufacturing productivity. Prior to starting her own business, she worked as an industrial training specialist for a local technical college. Lyons also previously held the position of associate professor in engineering technology and worked as a design engineer for a major defense contractor.
Lyons previously served on the state board for the Technical College System of Georgia where she helped establish a cross-education board committee to help build more collaboration among Georgia’s education partners. She was appointed to the Southern Growth Policies Board’s Council for a New Economy Workforce by Governor Perdue in May, 2010 and was nominated to the Board for the Georgia Chamber of Commerce in 2011. Lyons most recently served on the Board of Directors for EdLink until 2013 when the company was acquired by Bright Horizons. She holds a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering and a master’s degree in mechanical engineering.