Leadership Berks, a professional development program aimed at growing civic engagement, is now being run by the Greater Reading Chamber Alliance.
While the program will remain co-branded with Alvernia University in Reading, which has housed the program since 2009, the day-to-day management of the program will be handled by the GRCA and Toni Eckert, the program’s director, is now an employee of the chamber.
Randy Peers, president and CEO of the chamber, said leaders in Berks County have been working toward building more collaborative partnerships and taking on Leadership Berks’ operations “fit neatly into our vision for talent retention,” he said.
Peers said there has been growing interest in the program over the last couple of years, and the class of 2019 is now up to more than 40 members.
The program, which has similar programs like Leadership Lehigh Valley, is dedicated to developing, supporting and connecting community leaders in Berks County by providing them with leadership training and linking them with nonprofit organizations in the county.
“This program in particular is one of the more impactful professional development programs I’ve seen,” Peers said. “Programs like Leadership Berks go a long way to develop a talent pool.”
He said by getting professionals civically engaged they become more invested in their communities and so the program is beneficial on many levels.
He noted that while such leadership programs have been traditionally seen as geared towards younger business professionals, he said they are actively seeking professionals of all ages to join Leadership Berks and currently have a very diverse class of professionals.
He also noted that while Alvernia is passing along the management of the program, it is still boosting it with new incentives for individuals that participate in Leadership Berks including offering three college credits for participating in the program and a 20 percent discount toward a master’s degree at Alvernia.
Peers called the chamber a good fit for the leadership program, noting that it will be able to leverage its network of professional development resources and business leaders.
“It’s not uncommon for chambers to run such programs,” Peers said. “The GRCA is thrilled to house the Leadership Berks program as well as strengthen its partnership with Alvernia University.”