2023 Conference Presenters

Keynote Speaker:

Mike Moffatt, Founding Director, PLACE Centre

Dr. Mike Moffatt is the Founding Director of the PLACE Centre, the Senior Director of Policy and Innovation at the Smart Prosperity Institute, and an Assistant Professor in the Business, Economics, and Public Policy area group at Ivey Business School, Western University. Mike’s work focuses on the nexus between regional economic development, innovation, housing, and climate policy. He has held previous research positions at the Mowat Centre, Lawrence Centre, Canada 2020, and for the federal government where he was Canada’s first-ever Chief Innovation Fellow. Mike holds a Ph.D. in Management Science from Ivey Business School and an M.A. in Economics from the University of Rochester.

Mike has worked with politicians and policymakers of all political stripes in several countries to craft more effective public policy. From 2013 to 2015, Mike served as an economic advisor to Liberal leader Justin Trudeau. Aside from his work as an economist and researcher, Mike is a disability-rights activist and, despite spending most of his time in Ottawa, enjoys boring audiences with his encyclopedic knowledge of the history of Middlesex County, particularly Whalen Corners.

A.J. Tibando, Co-Founder & Chief Strategy Officer, Palette Skills

AJ Tibando is the co-founder and Chief Strategy Officer of Palette Skills, a national nonprofit focused on meeting the needs of Canada’s most innovative companies by upskilling workers from diverse backgrounds to transition into new industries.

AJ comes from a background in public policy and entrepreneurship. She started her career at Queen’s Park, serving as a senior policy advisor to a number of Ministers, including ministries such as Training, Colleges and Universities, where she worked on labour market and workforce development files, Research and Innovation, where she led the bio-tech and life sciences emerging industries file, and Community and Social Services, where she led the review of Ontario’s social assistance systems.

After leaving government, AJ founded a series of startups focused on developing socially innovative solutions to public challenges around youth engagement, social entrepreneurship and education. She is a passionate advocate of using the tools of innovation and entrepreneurship to address complex social challenges and is committed to training others to develop those skills.

She holds a Masters degree in Political Science from the University of Waterloo and a BA from the University of British Columbia.

Deanna D’Elia, General Manager of Employment and Immigrant Services, YMCA of Niagara

Deanna D’Elia is the General Manager of Employment and Immigrant Services at YMCA- Niagara. Throughout her 30 years + career,  she always seeks to work in the community to enhance services for clients. She is focused on leading a group of employment support professionals aimed at helping individuals become connected to their communities, seek and secure employment and develop in their jobs and as community members. Deanna’s ability to think strategically, innovate in the delivery of government-funded programs and foster community partnerships has enabled the Y’s Employment and Immigrant Services to become a sector leader in the provision of employment-related supports within Niagara.  

Dr. Tapo Chimbganda, Executive Director, Future Black Female

Dr. Tapo is the founding executive director of Future Black Female (FBF), a feminist-informed, not-for-profit organization providing services to Black female youth, ages 16-22 in Canada. FBF is driven by the mission to increase access to opportunities that enable Black female youth to participate in social, political, and economic opportunities empowered by strong community networks, skills advancement, and rights-based advocacy. As an EDI consultant, Dr. Tapo has 15+ years of international experience in the industry.  She collaborates with her clients in identifying opportunities for EDI; provides bespoke training and capacity building for boards; senior leadership and middle management. Using a whole systems organizational change approach, she designs and evaluates EDI policies and organizational strategies; research and dissemination strategies; and drives continuous quality improvement (CQI). Over the last decade, Dr. Tapo has made a significant impact in healthcare and community social services across Canada.

Erin Hand, Human Resources Advisor, HATCH Ltd,

Erin Hand is a Human Resources Advisor at Hatch Ltd, a global engineering and consulting firm that provides engineering, project and construction, business consulting and operational services to the mining, metal, energy and infrastructure sectors. Erin supports their Niagara Falls office, as well as several sectors and disciplines within the GTA, with over 12 years of experience. She is a certified Human Resource Professional and also a member of the HRPA.

Erin leads with empathy in her every day around the office, helping build and sustain an inclusive environment, while nurturing long-term relationships within the business. Erin encourages strong, engaged relationships and helps cultivate a culture where everyone can be a leader. She provides retention solutions within the workplace and handles difficult workplace challenges of today – and tomorrow, with integrity.

Fiona Peacefull, Vice President of Human Resources, Niagara Health

An authentic and seasoned human resources leader, Fiona brings over 30 years of experience across impactful and strategic leadership roles, primarily in the areas of human resources, public health, and organizational performance. Her experience has built competencies across all areas of human resources and influenced organizational strategy to value the employee and customer experience.

Strategic and results-oriented, Fiona thrives in an innovative, people-oriented environment where she can apply her strong leadership, human resources, strategic planning, and relationship-building skills. Her graduate studies in organizational leadership and Certified Human Resources Leader designation, combined with her commitment to inclusion, innovation, and results, align with organizations that value people, collaboration, competence, and character.

Fiona has led and delivered on a multitude of complex human resources and enterprise-wide projects and is proud to inspire teams to deliver innovative, measurable results across people-centered, community-minded organizations. Currently, she is proud to serve as the Executive Vice-President, Human Resources for Niagara Health. Niagara Health is a regional healthcare provider with multiple sites and a growing network of community-based and virtual services. The team is made up of 7,300 employees, physicians, volunteers, and patient partners who deliver extraordinary caring to every person, every time. An active community volunteer, Fiona is grateful for the opportunity to support the United Way, Niagara College, and Birchway Niagara.

Jason Shawana, Executive Director, NPAAMB Indigenous Youth Employment & Training

Jason is a dedicated professional working within Indigenous communities. Jason graduated from Laurentian University with a Bachelor of Indigenous Social Work (Honours) with a double minor in Indigenous Healing and Wellness, and Psychology.

Jason has been working in the not-for-profit sector for 9 years beginning in arts-based programming, into employment & training programs and services until becoming the Executive Director at NPAAMB Indigenous Youth Employment & Training in Southern Ontario. NPAAMB Indigenous Youth Employment and Training provides employment and training supports to urban Indigenous Youth between the ages of 15-30.

Throughout Jason’s career, he has achieved experiences across various helping professions – including the child welfare sector, employment & training, healing and wellness (counselling), and as a trainer for not-for-profit organizations across Ontario, providing formal and informal roles of leadership within these experiences.

As a part of his professional philosophies and approaches, Jason ensures a strong lens of diversity, equity, inclusion, and opportunity by employing four key approaches to his work – an Indigenous healing and wellness strategy (whole being approach), general systems theory, ecological perspective, intersectional approaches, all being rooted in Indigenous ways of being and knowing. Through these approaches, Jason has been able to develop meaningful programs, services, and approaches to the organizations he has worked with in order to promote an individual-focused and results-driven strategy that leads to greater success for the folks accessing programs and services with an organization.

Through his work with NPAAMB Indigenous Youth Employment & Training, the organization has brought forward a wholistic approach to provided programs and services to urban Indigenous youth that focuses on a youth development model that encourages creating a sense of belonging for the youth where they can safely participate in a career development journey that correlates with positive identity development, developing healthy workplace behaviours, and becoming meaningful members of the labour force, as well as their community.

Justin Falconer, Chief Executive Officer, Workforce Windsor-Essex

Justin Falconer is a highly experienced and accomplished executive with nearly two decades of experience working in government and community roles, including 12 years in management positions. He currently serves as the CEO of Workforce WindsorEssex, where he leads a team of professionals in regional employment and community planning to develop a strong and sustainable workforce in the region. Since joining Workforce WindsorEssex in 2016, Justin has held several positions within the organization, including Manager of Intergovernmental Partnerships and Senior Director, before being appointed CEO in 2020.

During his tenure at Workforce WindsorEssex, Justin has been a key figure in establishing the organization’s brand and expanding the reach of the WE Data Tools initiative, an online platform that offers job search, career development, and community data tools, as well as reports. The WE Data Tools are now utilized throughout the province and have received praise for their ability to support organizations in making informed workforce planning decisions and aiding individuals in their job searches.

Before joining Workforce WindsorEssex, Justin led organizing efforts for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s successful 2015 election campaign, where he recruited, trained, and supported thousands of volunteers across Southwestern Ontario. He has also held progressively senior operations, communications, and outreach roles in the Ontario Government, working for former Premier Dalton McGuinty, former Deputy Premier Dwight Duncan, and former Minister John Milloy.

In his free time, Justin enjoys travelling and spending time with his family. He is married to Christina and they have two sons together.

Kate Burns Gallagher, Executive Director, Western Ontario Wardens’ Caucus

Kate Burns Gallagher grew up in Sparta, Ontario (population 300) and graduated from Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo and Fanshawe College’s Post-graduate program in London. 

She spent the early years of her career working as an Executive Assistant to a Member of Parliament before making the move to municipal government.  For 14 years Kate worked at the County of Elgin in various roles including the Manager of Economic Development and Tourism.  Over that time Kate successfully developed and launched an award-winning culinary program as well as an industry first upper tier Community Improvement Plan. 

Kate now serves as the Executive Director of the Western Ontario Wardens’ Caucus.  No, it is not a group of jailers, but rather the heads of the 15 County Councils in Western Ontario, working together to enhance the prosperity and overall well-being of rural and small urban communities across the region. 

Kate believes the keys to success are building relationships, with the council, staff, the business community, and key stakeholders.  

Volunteerism is a passion of Kate’s, as she serves on Elgin-Middlesex United Way’s Board of Directors, is the newest Board member with the Elgin Business Resource Centre and has been a volunteer with Rogers TV for longer than she cares to admit. 

Khadija Hamidu, Executive Director, Hamilton Workforce Planning Board

Khadija Hamidu is the Executive Director of Workforce Planning Hamilton and Founder of Melanin Market. Over the last ten years, Khadija has fostered leadership around strategic planning and governance development through non-profit organizations in the hopes of creating innovative pathways to a better local economy from a sociological framework. With experience in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Khadija founded Melanin Market, where she leads and supports BIPOC Businesses on a national level with the goal to bring the necessary spotlight to businesses and creators who need extra support with funding and marketing. In her spare time, Khadija is the recipient of Top 40 leaders under 40 and is currently volunteering as a Board member for the Goodwill Amity Board of Directors as of March 2022.

Lise Galli, Principal, Excelerate HR Services

 Lise Galli founded ExcelerateHR Services after over two decades in executive leadership roles in private industry. As a senior leader across the transportation, environmental, and energy sectors, Lise has led transformative change efforts; built strong talent pipelines, and introduced innovative human resource programs and metrics. 

Lise’s unique ability to ‘see the big picture’ and translate corporate strategy into practical and measurable human resource solutions has positioned her as a value add partner to her clients. She currently consults in both the private and public sectors in all areas of HR operations, compensation, and strategy. Her passion is supporting organizations to build their HR infrastructure through technology, process, and people development. 

Lise holds an Honours Bachelor of Commerce from McMaster University and an MBA from the University of Phoenix. She received her Six Sigma black belt training through Price Waterhouse Coopers and has completed leadership development training at several leading institutions including Harvard University, Queen’s University, and the Schulich School of Business. Lise currently sits on the Advisory Board for the Human Resource Program at Mohawk College. 

Blake Landry, Economic Development, Niagara Region

A certified economic development professional with progressive experience in economic development, business development, and innovation commercialization. Specializes in industry and economic research, analysis and reporting; economic development program delivery; business start-up and expansion service delivery; market validation and business model design; and, industry and stakeholder relations.

Michael Crowe, Vice President of Academics, Bow Valley College

Michael Crowe brings over 20 years of experience in the post-secondary sector in Canada, and is currently serving as the Vice President, Academic at Bow Valley College in Calgary, Alberta.  Under his leadership, Bow Valley College has recently launched Pivot-Ed, a transformative approach to competency-based teaching and learning.  Through this initiative, Bow Valley College is bridging the emerging skills gap by strengthening ties between academia and industry and ensuring that learners have a seamless path from classroom to career.  This innovative work is shaping modern education and the future of workforce development.

Mojdeh Cox, Owner and Consultant, Cox & Co.

Meet Mojdeh Cox, a driving force behind transformative change in the arenas of political advocacy, social policy, and community-based leadership. Highlighting over a decade of dynamic experience, Mojdeh has become an influential figure in co-visioning, co-designing, and executing campaigns that captivate hearts and minds.

Mojdeh Cox’s resolute commitment to cultivating supportive and inspiring workplace cultures, coupled with her adeptness at uniting individuals around shared values and objectives, positions her as an unstoppable presence in the realm of community building and advocacy. A fervent advocate for dismantling systemic barriers, Mojdeh exudes a wealth of knowledge and expertise in labor relations, human rights, and fostering environments that champion authentic equity and inclusion. With a journey spanning almost fifteen years, her path has been dedicated to coaching organizational and community leaders, businesses, and nonprofits, catalyzing a paradigm shift in work dynamics through an intensified equity lens deeply rooted in social justice principles. Her recent tenure as a nonprofit President and CEO has led to national recognition of her thought leadership on Radical Accountability, a framework that has now permeated the lexicon of leadership and governance across the nonprofit sector and beyond.

In addition to her leadership background, Mojdeh is an award-winning consultant and convener. With her experience as a cornerstone, she founded Cox & Co., a family-run consulting firm with an unwavering commitment to values. The firm specializes in ethical governance, organizational audits, and professional learning and development for leaders and their teams.

Mojdeh isn’t all about business though – she lives a full life as a partner to Dave and Mama to their four children. Her big family and their not-so-mini Mini-Goldendoodle Leo live right outside of London Ontario.

Pamela Uppal, Director of Policy, Ontario Non-profit Network

Pamela (she/her) cares deeply about community, allyship, and equity. Over the past 10 years, she has focused on bridging frontline work, research initiatives, and policy advocacy to help build equitable systems. She led a nonprofit organization as a student volunteer, started her career in the nonprofit sector as an intake worker at a multi-service agency, has designed diversity trainings, and collaborated on multiple gender equity research projects. Currently, she is the Director of Policy at the Ontario Nonprofit Network. She holds a Masters degree in Women’s Studies & Feminist Research.

Rachel Crane, Learning & Engagement Lead, Workforce Collective

Rachel is the Learning & Engagement Lead at Workforce Collective, which is home to Niagara’s workforce planning board. Through this role, she nurtures co-creative thinking and doing within Niagara’s workforce and employment ecosystem (and beyond). 

After earning a master’s degree in leadership and gaining real-world experience within several social impact organizations, Rachel now leverages her knowledge of systems and design thinking to navigate through the complexities within employment equity and workforce development. She also teaches at Niagara College, supports leadership development through an organization called Leaders 4 Leaders, and is a mom to two young children. 

Among the many design labs she has facilitated related to workforce sustainability, she recently facilitated five in different communities across Ontario to foster collaborative networks that support quality childcare as economic infrastructure. Through those sessions, several solutions were sparked to address challenges within attracting and retaining talent within the early learning and childcare workforce.

Rania Younes, Senior Manager for Employer Network & National Engagement, Immigrant Employment Council of BC

Rania Younes (she/her) is the Senior Manager for Employer Networks and National Engagement at the Immigrant Employment Council of BC. She leads the national network of Immigrant Employment Council of Canada, a collective committed to helping Canadian employers attract, hire, train, and retain immigrant talent across Canada.

Rania has over 17 years of progressive marketing experience, where she excelled in areas of expertise in strategic design and planning, value framing and brand positioning, research and analysis, team building and management. In the last decade, she shifted her focus to social justice, inclusion, and economic empowerment, co-founding WelcomeHomeTO—a grassroots initiative collaborating with local community groups to address settlement challenges and re-imaging a dynamic settlement network that welcomes newcomers them with open hearts and minds. Additionally, she co-founded PCAN, a networking and mentoring platform empowering professionals in the Canadian Arab community through coaching and peer support.

Rania’s unwavering commitment to diverse communities shines through her dedicated support of community-led organizations, particularly those championing the interests of marginalized groups and making a significant impact on the lives of those she serves.

Rebecca Nicholls, Associate Dean, Workforce Development & Community Partnerships, Niagara College

Rebecca is a dedicated Human Resources and Labour Relations professional with over 16 years in the post-secondary education system. Her career has largely focused on supporting unemployed individuals within the community to discover their full potential, search for employment and achieve goals. Rebecca is passionate about helping others explore their skills, abilities, and options, and how each individual can provide value to every workplace. Additionally, she has extensive experience in supporting employers, developing education and skills training opportunities to meet their workforce development needs.

In her role as Associate Dean, Workforce Development & Community Partnerships at Niagara College, Rebecca provides strategic and operational direction to community programs within the portfolio, including employment-focused contracts, funded training opportunities, and access to post-secondary initiatives for non-traditional learners.

Shane Altenstad,General Manager, FedCap Canada

As a career professional in Education, Social Services, and Employment Services for over 30 years, his career began as a Caseworker for the Department of Social Services in the early 90s. 

Since then, he held two roles in Private Career College Sector as Director of Education and College President.  He also fulfilled roles in the Community College sector as Manager of Records and Registration at Sheridan College and Associate Registrar at Niagara College.  And in the University sector, he pioneered the role of Faculty Coordinator at York University.  Prior to his current role as General Manager for Fedcap Canada, he fulfilled the role as Director of Recruitment and Student Services at Contact North.

It was, however during his time in government, as Service Delivery Manager and Regional Program Manager for the Ministry of Labor, Immigration, Training and Skills Development, where he has been closely involved with Employment Services Transformation and the introduction of the Service System Manager model in Ontario.