Canada, meet the new boss in town.
In the U.S. capital of Washington D.C., a new woman now helms one of the most important agencies in the country designed to educate, train and assist workers.
Her name: Dr. Unique Morris-Hughes.
This week, Morris-Hughes began her new position as the Interim Director of The Washington D.C. Department of Employment Services, or DOES. It’s a post that calls for a hefty role: since she operates as State Labor Commissioner. It’s a post that calls for hefty financial management skills: because the agency is responsible for all things workforce-related, it, along with the U.S. government, administers an estimated $150 million budget of federal, local and specific-purpose funds. Throw in another $80 million budget for capital projects. And it’s a post that calls for a leader who drives innovation, promises disruption and demands excellence.
On all fronts, Morris-Hughes is happy to lead the charge.
In her new role, Morris-Hughes vows to give everything from workforce development to grants management an upgrade. These “upgrades” would impact workers from a wide range of ages and experiences, from every part of the city. And her goals extend beyond Washington D.C.’s borders. For any organization in Canada or elsewhere looking to invest, looking to partner, or looking for a new place to plant corporate roots, Morris-Hughes wants them to know: the District is home to a highly-accomplished base of talent due to a thriving, knowledge-based economy. Simply put, Washington D.C. has an embarrassment of professional riches that the rest of the world should continue to notice, engage and benefit from. The welcoming to the city of companies like Uber and Yelp — both of which are helping to usher in workforce-related change — underscores Morris-Hughes’ point.
For those not already apart of Washington D.C.’s talent base, Morris-Hughes is re-tooling existing programs and creating new ones designed to help level the playing field in terms of advantages, education and opportunity. At DOES, she has led massive turnaround efforts designed to better administer programs for youth — efforts that have become examples for other U.S. states. At Washington D.C.’s Office of the State Superintendent of Education, she wore many hats: leading the agency through a federal corrective action plan and ultimately helping Washington D.C. reverse a “high risk” status for grant oversight, operation management and fiscal reporting; and leading management functions to support the agency’s mission, including a $270 million education grant portfolio and $600 million in student-per-pupil funding. She’s also expanded the talent base by taking on numerous teaching assignments, even on the college graduate level.
Helping those who need it — and those at risk — is a steady determination for Morris-Hughes. It’s borne of her theory that positive change and success come with the integration of educational training and economic responsibility. Now, with her new appointment and ambitious plans, her theory will receive a fresh test.