With the Oct. 1 retirement of Statewide Business Relations Administrator Peggy Anderson, Leslie Dawson is preparing to fill some very big shoes.
In August, ADRS Commissioner Jane Elizabeth Burdeshaw named Dawson to succeed Anderson as the department’s business relations administrator and a member of the Executive Leadership Team (ELT).
“I’m honored and humbled,” Dawson said about her new role. “Peggy – she’s a legend here at ADRS. I’ve been working closely with her for the last 15 years or so, and I’ve learned a great deal about her philosophy and approach, which I’ll continue.”
Dawson has been with the department since 1997 and has been a working in the business relations program – known as READI-Net – since 2005. Before joining the business relations team, Dawson served as a VR counselor in the Tuscaloosa office.
“I worked a general caseload in VR,” Dawson said. “I also served as a transition counselor to rural areas in and around Tuscaloosa County. To be a successful counselor in that area, I quickly learned the value of job development. Because I saw those business connections as playing a critical role in getting people employed, business relations was a natural fit for me.”
Dawson describes her leadership style as stemming from the power of divergent thinking.
“I want to empower the individual to work and think outside the box,” said Dawson. “I firmly believe you have to think out-of-the-box if you want to adequately support people with disabilities. All difficult problems have a solution, but sometimes it takes a creative solution to solve that problem. My goal is to believe in my team’s ability to creatively solve difficult problems, which in turn will effectively grow their skill level as team members to better support the team.”
Dawson said that one of her first orders of business will be to look more closely at the three different methods proposed to measure Indicator 6 – effectiveness in serving employers – under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA).
The first approach tracks retention rates with the same employer and addresses efforts to provide employers with skilled workers. The second method looks at repeat business customers and addresses efforts to engage the employer and establish mutually productive relationships within the business community. The third method examines the employer penetration rate and looks more globally at programs’ abilities in providing services to all employers and sectors within the state.
“Obviously the end goal is putting consumers to work,” Dawson said, “but the three proposed approaches to gauge critical workforce needs are quite different, so we will have to explore new trends in the data to select a measure to accurately determine our performance in the business community.”
Before working with Assistant Commissioners James Myrick and Curtis Glisson to set the department’s sixth indicator, Dawson said she is greeting employers with the same level of enthusiasm that Peggy Anderson used in growing a nationally lauded business relations program.
“When I’m meeting businesses, and I see that light bulb go on,” she said, “the possibilities are endless. Having an employer who gets it is the difference, and I’m honored to be that person who pulls it all together and makes those connections for our consumers. It’s an opportunity to make Alabama better, one job at a time.”