Mike King hedshot

LeadingAge Board Chair Mike King (Credit: LeadingAge)

ATLANTA — LeadingAge is embarking on a formal collaboration with the United Negro College Fund and historically black colleges and universities with a goal of establishing a pipeline for new talent into the long-term care industry.

New LeadingAge Board Chair Mike King made the announcement Wednesday, the final day of the organization’s Annual Meeting + Expo.

Leaders convened before the annual meeting on DEI, and several educational sessions at the conference focused on diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives. A.G. Rhodes CEO Deke Cateau hosted one such, session held during the annual meeting was attended by UNCF staff members, representatives from approximately 10 HBCUs and approximately 12 multi-site organizations / life plan communities to introduce the concept.

The purpose of the partnership, King said, is to explore ways to raise long-term services and supports career awareness, consider future outreach to students and alumni, assess best approaches for reaching staff members and faculty members at the schools, and identify existing infrastructure and programs that can be leveraged, as well as new resources that are needed.

“This is going to be fantastic,” he said. “Now we’re talking about taking action.”

Next steps include building on the DEI initiative through further collaboration with HBCUs to communicate more and be part of access opportunities across the long-term care sector. Identifying grant funding and other ways to financially support the effort are additional steps.

King, president and CEO of Volunteers of America, relayed how his organization embarked on its DEI effort four years ago, making it one of the organization’s primary strategic pillars. Thanks to a leadership-led DEI campaign, the VOA’s national board, affiliate boards and executive team now better reflect the people served by the company.

“After four years and being intentional, I feel like I’m enrolled in a class from which I’ll never graduate — and that’s good,” King said. “Every day, I learn something new about this. Isn’t that a great way to live life?”

LeadingAge’s “DEI journey” will help the association be different five to 10 years from now, King said.

“I think that’s super,” he added.

Author and podcast host Luvvie Ajayi Jones gave the final keynote address of the annual meeting. She spoke about having courage, pushing through fear, embracing getting outside “comfort zones,” recognizing fear and moving forward.