Featured Projects

Through partnerships and collaborations with businesses, unions, other non-profits, educational institutions, and government, WDI is involved in a variety of projects across New York State. We invite you to learn more about some of these projects in the section below and through the dropdown menu.

Utility Pipeline Program Gains Recognition and Continued Support (Long Island)

Date: March 20, 2018

Last year WDI noted a huge demand for a utility workforce on Long Island, with over 800 utility job openings in a 12 month period. To address this workforce demand, WDI collaborated with Nassau Community College’s Center for Workforce Development and several Long Island utilities, including American Water, National Grid, and PSEG LI, to develop a pre-employment training program with a pipeline to placement at these participating employers at completion of the program. A total of 23 unemployed and under-employed women participated in 130 hours of classroom instruction, “employability workshops”, and field trips to the utilities’ offices. The women learned about electricity and natural gas distribution systems, energy generation, and careers in the industry. In total, 21 women earned the industry recognized Energy in Fundamentals Certificate. To date, eleven (11) women received job offers from the utility company partners and five (5) opted for other full-time employment opportunities after completing the program; additional placements are anticipated.

NCC President Dr. W. Hubert Keen noted, “The URGENT program has been a spectacular success and has provided the training and tools necessary for the women students to start a career, to help bootstrap their families into the middle class, and provide well-trained workers for our public utilities. It is a great opportunity for the women and a boost to the utility’s workforce.” The success of the pilot prompted two awards: 1) An REDC award to continue the program for women and veterans and 2) The Continuing Education Association of NY (CEANY) 2017 James C. Hall Business/Organization Collaboration award. CEANY recognizes exemplary Non Credit Program Development each year that offers innovative and effective services and/or training either to individuals pursuing employment and/or a specific business or industry hoping to address a specific need or gap.

The utility industry is experiencing pressure from an aging workforce and simultaneously feeling pressures to diversify their workforce. Seeing this as a successful model, WDI is having conversations with utilities and training providers to assess the value of replicating the program in other utility service areas across the state.

Earn While You Learn in Madison County (Central New York)

Date: March 20, 2018

Open positions with good wages and benefits run aplenty among advanced manufacturers in Madison County. Workforce Development and Economic Development organizations in Central NY convened last fall to discuss creative avenues to attract workers into these manufacturing positions. The group investigated approaches used successfully in other states and launched a Vermont-based program called the Apprenticeship Accelerator Career Training (AACT). The program is somewhat unique in that it requires employers to agree upfront to take graduates of the program (employers are also involved extensively in the screening of candidates), and the trainees are paid during the training period.

Through a successful marketing campaign, five (5) employers with interest in filling available CNC Machinist positions signed on with a training capacity for a total of ten (10) apprentices. Equally important, a large pool of interested and motivated job seekers responded to the marketing campaign, of which 10 were selected.

Intensive training was provided over a nine week period through the AACT. Training was successful and the full cohort currently remains employed while continuing longer-term apprenticeships (one exception was due to a move out of state). In addition to guaranteed jobs, college credits were also earned.  Apprentices received a $3/hour increase in earnings and became full-time employees with the sponsoring companies at the completion of the program.

Participating manufacturers included All Seasonings, Canastota N/C Corp., Knowles Capacitors, Manth Brownell, and Fulton Tool. The program has been launched a second time and one gauge of success is that several participating employers have asked to be involved again. 

The following organizations collaborated to drive the success of this program: The Manufacturers Association of Central New York, Working Solutions, Jobs for the Future, Onondaga Community College, Apprenticeship Accelerator Career Training (AACT), NYS Department of Labor, Camden County College of New Jersey (which permitted use of its Mobile Learning Lab), Institute for American Apprenticeships (IAA) at Vermont HITEC, and WDI.

A training model such as this can be duplicated in other sectors including healthcare, information technology, and business services. 

A Partnership with 1199SEIU Moves Individuals Up the Health Care Career Ladder (Multi-Region)

Date: March 20, 2018

Changes in New York’s health care delivery systems have resulted in an increased demand for Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs). This increase has, in turn, put a strain on the number of nurses available with this credential.

Seeing an opportunity to develop 1199SEIU members and also address the LPN shortage, 1199SEIU and the WDI partnered to offer the LPN credential to members who were employed as CNAs or Dietary Workers earning between $10.00 and $13.00 per hour. The first program was run during 2017 with seven members, all of whom successfully completed the training program. Six of the newly certified members went on to pass the LPN licensure exam and all six are now employed as LPNs at various healthcare organizations. With a starting wage of $17.00 to $20.00 per hour, employment as an LPN offers a significant salary increase over CNA and Dietary Worker positions, and these members continue to have access to support from 1199SEIU’s continuing education benefit to receive training for higher job classifications in the healthcare industry.

Due to the success of the first program, WDI is continuing to support this LPN training in 2018. A new class of ten 1199SEIU members is scheduled to conclude in December. 

Southern Tier Collaboration on Machining Program Makes a Difference (Rochester-Genesee)

Date: March 20, 2018

Last Fall, WDI was approached by NationSwell, a social media impact company focused on finding solutions to America’s problems through service and action. NationSwell was interested in highlighting training programs that have the capacity to help older workers re-tool and find careers in new sectors or industries. What follows is the video, A Second Chance at the American Dream, that highlights a machining training program that was launched a few years ago by WDI, the Greater Southern Tier BOCES, CSS Workforce NY, and several manufacturers. The program came about because employers could not find skilled employees. The video indicates that the program was and is a game changer for both the employers and the trainees.



NationSwell, 2017

Increasing Capacity Among Construction Contractors (Long Island)

Date: March 20, 2018

The baby boomers are retiring and it’s affecting all sectors, including construction. At the same time, major infrastructure bills are on the horizon, so now is the time to ensure that the construction firms and the unions that provide them with skilled labor are poised and ready to go. While the trade-specific skills that union contractors possess are superior and result in securing major contracts, we are hearing that retirement is affecting those at the top of these firms, and therefore there is a need for entrepreneurial training, or "next generation" training, for those who might take over.

To that end, WDI has been exploring a number of options to support training for signatory contractors to hone their business skills. In one such project, WDI is working with the National Electrical Contractors Association’s (NECA) and two contractors from the Long Island NECA chapter to pilot a program that covers training in current laws, contracts, claims, and estimating for the business owners.  Both contractors are women-owned electrical contractors working on major transportation projects including the new subway tunnel in Manhattan and rail stations on Long Island.

We view this program is an opportunity to address a growth barrier and also pilot a potential solution that could be expanded beyond the Long Island region.

Supporting Growth for Kris Tech Wire (Mohawk Valley)

Date: March 20, 2018

Kris Tech Wire is a vertically integrated wire manufacturer that produces materials in its Rome, NY headquarters. WDI has worked with the company twice in the last few years to help the company realize a multi-year growth plan. Last year WDI assisted Kris Tech with the implementation of a new operating system that consolidated older resource planning and customer service systems into one system that allows the company to pursue and manage new business more efficiently. More recently, WDI is working with the company on implementation of LEAN training for all staff. The initial effort helped Kris Tech Wire grow from 41 to 54 employees. The LEAN effort is anticipated to help achieve additional increases in revenue and job growth. Kris Tech management notes that the company would not have been able to successfully grow and scale the organization without these two projects.

NY Talent Symposium: New Strategies For a Skilled Workforce (Multi-Region)

Date: March 20, 2018

On November 13, 2017, WDI partnered with Innovate+Educate, a national nonprofit organization, to host the NY Talent Symposium. This daylong event brought together over 100 state thought leaders to examine the current landscape and to explore new strategies for the Learning-to-Employment ecosystem in New York State. In today’s job market, traditional hiring methods and educational pathways are often challenged to effectively connect workers to jobs and employers to workers with the right skills.

The goal of the Symposium was to develop broader awareness, build a common language, and stimulate new thinking and ongoing dialogue around competency-based strategies to address many of New York’s workforce skills challenges.

One of the key takeaways from the Symposium was the need for more information and resources on how to implement competency-based strategies. In response, WDI just announced the launch of an online clearinghouse to catalog and make available information related to assessment, training, hiring and advancement tools, methodologies and resources based on skills and competencies.This clearinghouse will be the first of its kind in the U.S. and will provide tools and resources to support employers and workforce professionals based on skills and competencies rather than degrees and years of work experience.

WDI will also be conducting field testing of tools and innovations that could support employers in the areas of employee attraction, selections, development and/or advancement. We are currently developing a pilot demonstration with early-adopter manufacturing companies to evaluate Core Score, a foundational skills assessment that measures core competencies such as Critical Thinking, Drive for Results, Teamwork, Adaptability and Communication. 

Workforce, Economic Development, and Training Partners Collaborate to Build A Pharma Manufacturing Pipeline (Long Island)

Date: March 20, 2018

WDI and its partners on Long Island are building off of a series of fruitful and informative visits with pharmaceutical manufacturers last year. The pharmaceutical manufacturing sector employs an estimated 9,000 people on Long Island. To continue its growth and push innovation, the sector needs a reliable pipeline of workers. “Our clients made it clear to us,” says John McNally of the Suffolk County Industrial Development Agency (SCIDA), “that one of their primary challenges to growth was attracting and retaining quality employees.” Through referrals from SCIDA, WDI interviewed a number of pharma manufacturers and then helped to organize tours of the plants by local educational providers. Representatives from area universities, community colleges, and BOCES got a first-hand, in-depth understanding of the near- and long-term workforce needs of this industry sector by viewing facilities and speaking directly with pharma executives and human resource directors.

The tours resulted in a partnership among workforce, educational, and economic development areas to help support the sectors. The partners – which include WDI, SCIDA, and Empire State Development – quickly got to work with educational institutions to translate what was learned from the pharma tours into practical, industry-validated curriculum. The curriculae – in development by Suffolk Community College  - includes content on Current Good Manufacturing Processes, manufacturing-contextualized English as a Second Language, and additional training for incumbent workers. Through this curriculae, Long Island pharma manufacturers are developing their talent pipeline right in their own backyard.


The partnership is continuing to find ways to work together to support Long Island’s pharma manufacturers and raise awareness about its career opportunities. The group has begun to develop tracking mechanisms for curriculum, internships, and work experiences. Fed by regular reporting from educational institutions, the group will track its progress through the Long Island Regional Economic Development Council’s Workforce, Education & Veterans working group. In addition, Novartis – a pharma company that employs hundreds on Long Island – will welcome local high school students and teachers on guided tours of its facilities. The teachers and students, hailing from economically and culturally diverse districts, will see first-hand what pharma manufacturing looks like and learn about the skills and jobs that drive this critical Long Island industry sector.

Those involved in the partnership agree that working together amplifies each member’s strengths. McNally of the SCIDA states, “WDI and others in the workforce development universe have become a critical component of our larger economic development strategy.” In short, this is a model of workforce and economic development working together to serve their region while empowering growth through good jobs and a skilled labor pool.

Clarifying and Promoting Career Possibilities in NYC’s Fashion Sector (NYC)

Date: March 20, 2018

WDI partnered with the New York City Department of Education for February Fashion Career Day, which took place on February 28th, 2018. Forty-five (45) students from the High School of Fashion Industries and the High School of Art and Design attended a panel presentation focused on careers in fashion and then went on tours of factories located in Manhattan’s Garment District. The panel was held at the Fashion High School with Deb Johnson from the Brooklyn Fashion + Design Accelerator as the Moderator. Topics covered included entrepreneurship, higher education degrees and courses, the NYC fashion industry in past, present and future, career paths, and sustainable fashion production methods. Panelists from Mara Hoffman, Custom Collaborative, Fashion Institute of Technology and Study NY made short presentations and then engaged in a lively discussion about their own paths in fashion as well as emerging trends and issues for students to be aware of as they think about careers in design or production.


Six groups of students were able to visit two factories each, all within walking distance of the high school in NYC’s Garment District. None of the students had visited factories before, and on the tours they saw a mix of traditional cut and sew factories, advanced production methods for specialty garments, as well as associated services such as grading and marking patterns for size and fit, and embellishments for fashion such as fabric flowers, embroidery, finishing and trims. In total, six factories participated.

The staff from the high schools and the Department of Education were grateful for the introductions to factories, where they hope to bring more students for future tours and even in-depth demonstrations in production methods. The factories welcomed the opportunity to meet young people who will enter the fashion industry as potential future employees, collaborators or customers.


Strengthening Connections Between Employer Needs and K-12 Curriculum: The STEM Fellowship Program Graduates Its Third Class (Capital Region)

Date: March 20, 2018

Questar III BOCES is helping its teachers bring the skills and excitement of STEM careers into their classroom. Thanks to the support of innovative local employers and WDI, Questar’s Summer Research Fellowship program is now entering its third year. Through a competitive application process, teachers in science, technology, engineering, and math departments in Columbia, Greene, and Rensselaer Counties are placed with employers for a hands-on seven-week learning experience. By working side-by-side with scientists, engineers, and other STEM professionals, teachers learn first-hand what skills and competencies are in demand with by employers. Four days a week, they work on real projects at the employers’ facilities; on Fridays, the teacher-fellows participate in professional development and curriculum development activities. What they learn in the fellowship they integrate into their lesson planning to create real-world examples of how STEM is used in the workplace.


Evaluation is on-going for these pilot programs but initial feedback is very positive:  
   •Teachers report improved lesson plans and fuller understanding of the skills of in-demand careers in science, manufacturing, and other STEM fields.
   •In addition to improved test scores, students report stronger engagement in the classroom and more hands-on learning opportunities.
   •Employers report benefits from strengthening the link between K-12 education and the modern STEM workplace.

WDI has been proud to be a partner to the Fellowships, providing program design input and funding for teacher stipends and classroom materials. While these teachers’ students may be years away from entering the workforce, programs like the Summer Research Fellowship help teachers lay a foundation of strong STEM skills for students to succeed in a variety of in-demand professions.


Starting Career Exploration Early (Hudson Valley)

Date: March 20, 2018

WDI partnered with the Dutchess County Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Career Action Center, housed in Poughkeepsie High School, to address the issue of educating children about careers. What began as an idea for a coloring book by WDI’s Hudson Valley Regional Director Mary Jane Bertram, transformed into Color My Future! A Career Exploration Coloring Book.

Creating a career exploration coloring book was an opportunity for Poughkeepsie High School student artists to both learn about jobs and help educate elementary school children. The high school students worked diligently over the summer of 2017 researching New York State in-demand occupations and then created illustrations of these occupations. The artists, ranging in age from 14 to 19, included a variety of careers in the coloring book from plumber to physical therapist to machinist. Educating students and their parents/guardians on the variety of career opportunities in New York State is often a concern raised by employers, community leaders and parents themselves. While there is primary focus on college, there are also opportunities for middle class jobs that can be achieved through certificate and apprentice programs.

Color My Future! was designed to help educate, inspire, and engage children and adults by increasing knowledge of 1) educational requirements, 2) projected growth, and 3) average salaries for an assortment of occupations. It is our hope that this tool, so wonderfully created by teen artists, will help children dream of a colorful future filled with opportunity while linking the future workforce to jobs in growing industries across the great state of New York.

Intermediaries Boost Interest in Apprenticeship (Multi-Region)

Date: March 20, 2018

Intermediaries Boost Interest in Apprenticeship

While apprenticeships have traditionally played a critical role in training individuals for jobs in manufacturing, NYS has seen a significant erosion in the use of apprenticeships since the 1980’s, when the state began to lose manufacturing jobs.

We’ve long known that apprenticeships are an effective mechanism of training for this sector, and have been looking for ways to engage employers in embracing them once again as manufacturing rebounds across the state. Our experience until recently has been that employers were leery of launching apprenticeships for a number of reasons, including concerns around investing heavily in staff who might leave, and also the paperwork and time commitment involved in starting a new apprenticeship title. Enter the intermediary. A new model is gaining traction across NYS that takes the administrative burden of managing an apprenticeship away from the employer and, by default, makes the investments associated with apprenticeships less of a barrier. 

The United Way in Western NY and MACNY in Central NY are two intermediaries that are making a significant difference. Although their models are different, both intermediaries provide financial support to employers looking to launch apprenticeships and both handle the administrative tasks associated with submitting the apprenticeship application to the NYSDOL and then managing the paperwork associated with the apprenticeships. The United Way program is supported by a federal grant and has 300 apprenticeships slots; after a slow start in the first few years, the Program Administrator reports that interest has taken off during the last several months and it appears that all 300 slots will be used. Meanwhile, MACNY has done significant outreach across the state and to date has enabled 19 companies to register 49 apprentices and has an additional 15 companies in the process of registering 70 new apprentices. Several more companies are interested. MACNY in particular has also played a key role in helping to raise awareness of the intermediary role across the state, and training other potential intermediaries.

WDI’s role to date with the intermediaries has been referrals (for both), support for materials and supplies for the United Way program, and support for shorter term training programs that can be considered logical pipeline programs (or “gateway programs”) to these longer term apprenticeships.  Examples of pipeline programs include a 9-week machining program in Madison County (see article "Earn While You Learn in Madison County") and also a national recognized Certified Production Technician (CPT) program that we have supported extensively in Western NY. 

In the coming year we’ll be looking for additional ways of developing feeder programs to apprenticeships (example - in WNY we are working on a pilot to embed the CPT program into a BOCES program that serves as entry level training for local employers) and/or supporting the efforts of the intermediaries to enroll more companies.

WDI Boosts Sewing/Fashion Manufacturing via Orange County Accelerator (Hudson Valley)

Date: March 20, 2018

Previously WDI reported on providing foundational support for Unshattered, a new enterprise of the Walter Hoving Home that combines addiction treatment, residential services, and a structured, production-focused training. Through the manufacture of handbags and other textile products out of repurposed items, women develop their skills in sewing, textiles, marketing, and project management. Unshattered was started in the Orange County Accelerator and has since graduated out of the Accelerator. However, WDI has continued to work with the Accelerator to support a growing interest in and growth of sewing manufacturing, for a variety of sectors, in the Hudson Valley.

This past winter the WDI worked with the Accelerator once again to establish a formal “sewing pod” to support the launch of new businesses and to help existing businesses grow. Concrete success has been seen:  

•Melo Co, Inc. is a design and manufacturing company of quality precision fabrics serving fashion and military markets. Melo started with 2 staff and has since grown to 10 staff. Further growth is anticipated.
•Lucky Bug Clothing Company was established in 2015 and produces soft baby clothing and accessories. The company has grown to 5 staff.
•Two new companies are just moving in and both expect to add staff quickly.  NYC E-Blue is an online handbag designer and Limberti Evolution is a manufacturer of Chanel bags. Both anticipate 5-6 staff each.  
•Given a rising interest in sewing manufacturing in general (we are seeing companies looking for individuals with sewing experience in several parts of the state), the sewing pod is also co-hosting training with the Orange County BOCES. Many graduates from the BOCES courses have gone on to acquire jobs with the onsite companies, and ongoing training will continue to help supply a workforce for the growing need of this locally developing sector

Finally, an interesting development in sewing manufacturing is that the technology associated with today’s sewing equipment is becoming increasingly technical/complicated. That said, machine operator jobs require more expertise, and therefore have the potential to be better jobs than those traditionally associated with this type of manufacturing.