Our Mission

Building scalable, sustainable partnerships to accelerate registered apprenticeship (RA) adoption and improve alignment with our nation’s workforce and education systems.


National Technical Assistance

Across key RA topics including pre-apprenticeship and RA program development, WIOA co-enrollment, employer engagement, partnership strategies, career pathway development, integrated service delivery and more.


Engaging Key Stakeholders

Including federal agencies, economic development organizations, business, organized labor, industry associations, state and local workforce boards and secondary and post-secondary education to develop effective partnerships around RA and inform state and federal RA policy.


Coordinating Across Investments

With DOL and ETA’s Office of Apprenticeship as well as collaborating with State Apprenticeship Agencies (SAAs) and DOL-funded RA investments at the national and state level to serve core RA system customers effectively and efficiently.


The Center's Work

The Center was developed by the USDOL to establish, build and sustain partnerships that support alignment of industry, workforce and education to accelerate RAP adoption and expansion. This RA TA Center of Excellence will provide technical assistance on a national scope to RAP sponsors and support state and local workforce development boards, American Job Center programs and operators, governors and other essential stakeholders that drive and inform economic and workforce development policies and programs.

Meet the Team: Center Staff

In July 2021, USDOL awarded Safal Partners the grant to lead the National Registered Apprenticeship Technical Assistance Center for Strategic Partnerships and System Alignment. Safal Partners is a national technical assistance provider leading RA expansion efforts for USDOL through multiple grants and contracts as well as a national RA program sponsor for cybersecurity and tech roles. Together with our national and state partners we will deliver robust, field-informed TA on a national scale.

Katie Adams, Project Director

Katie is a USDOL-recognized subject matter expert (SME) in RA providing technical assistance on several USDOL and National Science Foundation contract and grant-funded programs over the past 11 years. In that role she has focused on advancing industry-aligned adult and youth apprenticeship programs aligned with secondary and post-secondary academic programs and the public workforce system to meet critical occupational needs across several sectors. Her work has directly supported registration of more than 2,500 new apprentices with a focus on historically underserved populations including women, minorities, Veterans and individuals with disabilities.

Judy Blanchard, Project Manager

Judy has over 20 years of experience in workforce development successfully leading multi-million-dollar cross-regional efforts focused on convening industry and educational partners to collectively design and deliver talent development programs across emerging sectors.


Meet the Team: Subject Matter Experts

Lisa Rice (Focus: Workforce System Alignment)

Lisa has over 20 years of experience in workforce development, including as the former President of CareerSource Brevard in Melbourne, Florida where she provided executive staff leadership over all areas of LWDB management, budgeting, contracting, reporting outcomes of service delivery, system wide technology infrastructure, and fostering effective community relations. Her work included overseeing board assistance to over 9,000 dislocated aerospace workers and developing the Business to Jobs (B2J) model to engage businesses in One Stop Career Centers which has been replicated in several areas nationwide. She has successfully executed workforce board outreach strategies for Safal Partners’ national RA industry intermediary contract in tech apprenticeship expansion and provided direct TA and coaching to Closing the Skills Gap grantees. Email Lisa

Gene Ellis (Focus: Workforce System Alignment)

As both the former USDOL Office of Apprenticeship State Director in New Hampshire and State Apprenticeship Agency Director in Maine, Gene oversaw all staff and activities to implement high-quality RA programs with employers, local workforce development boards, industry associations, secondary and post-secondary educational institutions, training providers, labor unions and other stakeholders. He has extensive experience advising workforce boards and educational institutions, including DOL TAACCCT grantees, in RA program development for youth (in conjunction with CTE programs) and for WIOA-eligible populations. Email Gene

Nicole Klues (Focus: Secondary, Post-Secondary and Adult Basic Education Alignment)

Nicole has more than 14 years of leadership experience in successfully implementing online and blended learning models to enhance learning outcomes in both K-12 and higher education at the local, state, and national levels. Nicole continues to advocate for accessible, equitable education and helps blend high-tech education with high-touch solutions for learners, educators, and administrators. She recently completed leading the USDOL Job Corps National Distance Learning project and previously led the District of Columbia’s Public Schools Online Platforms and Professional Development team supporting hybrid and virtual instruction for over 50,000 students and 4,000 educators. She has extensive experience in teaching, creating professional development training, and technical assistance to bridge the digital divide and increase access to career pathways for students. Email Nicole

Christian Lagarde (Focus: Post-Secondary Education Alignment)

Christian has developed partnerships with educational and workforce stakeholders at the national and state level including organizations like Achieving the Dream, American Council on Education, The Aspen Institute, National Association of Workforce Boards, National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship, National Council for Workforce Education and The Urban Institute. As the former Project Manager in Workforce and Economic Development at the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) his work supported over 700 community college USDOL Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) grantees. He oversees IHE outreach strategy for Safal Partners’ RA national industry intermediary contract through which he also developed the firm’s LMS for cyber and tech RA related technical instruction (RTI). Email Christian

Melissa Aguilar-Southard (Focus: Workforce System Alignment)

Melissa has an extensive background in workforce and economic development as well as higher education. She currently leads U.S. DOL's newest Technical Assistance Collaborative, has served under multiple Governors in multiple states on both sides of the isle, has led multiple workforce oriented boards, and provided consultation services to local, state and federal level entities. Before Melissa joined the non-profit and government-oriented world, she started her career in the private industry where she was an industry trainer and occupation profiler, designing training and education programs for multiple industries, including Fortune 500 companies. Email Melissa

Jana Bauer (Focus: Workforce System Alignment)

Jana is a strategically driven, action-oriented project manager with over 8 years of experience in the public sector. Her expertise lies in workforce development, with a wide range of skills including grant management, strategic planning, program development, performance indicator development, contract administration, document drafting, and technical assistance. Jana has successfully led numerous employment and training projects with local, state, and national partners. She is passionate about translating ideas into actionable plans and ensuring cross-functional teams and resources work together seamlessly to achieve desired outcomes. Email Jana