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.

Piloting a Potential Solution to the Soft Skills Problem (Rochester/Genesee)

Date: March 06, 2019

The Rochester-Genesee Valley region has been working hard on a multi-pronged effort to tackle the “soft skills” problem cited by so many employers. While a lack of these skills in applicants - such as adaptability, collaboration, communication, resilience, social diversity/awareness - has been a factor for a few years now, employers have noted that the issue is intensifying as the demand for higher technical and custom products increases. Most production workers today have some interface with either audit processes and /or compliance practices for required certifications or regulations, which involves interacting with others and sometimes reporting to outside entities. The inability to interact with clients on custom work has also been noted as a problem.

To that end, WDI has been working with New World of Work (NWoW), a CA-based non-profit that developed curriculum, assessments, and digital badging to help high schools, colleges, and businesses address some of the skills deficits seen routinely. WDI Regional Director Lynn Freid was trained herself on the program last year and has brought the curriculum to this region. The NWoW offers a few different levels of softs skills programming for both the emerging and incumbent workforces, and Freid and partners are trying out a few in the Finger Lakes. A first class of incumbent workers at GW Lisk just completed a class; an open enrollment program for individuals to gain skills required for employment is currently running. Additional programs are in development in Genesee and Wyoming Counties as well as the Southern Tier.  

We anticipate reporting on program results by mid-2019.

GrowNYC Expands: Trains Workers for Advancement Opportunities and Supports New Farmers from Across NYS (NYC)

Date: March 06, 2019

GrowNYC is a New York City-based non-profit best known for its 50+ Greenmarket Farmers Markets covering the entire city. GrowNYC brings fresh food to some of New York City’s poorest neighborhoods and accepts SNAP benefits. The organization also connects New York State farmers to the largest market in the state, New York City. 

The organization – both the Greenmarket Farmers Markets and companion training programs – is growing and WDI is working with the organization on two programs to support this growth. A range of training for GrowNYC interns and permanent staff will help develop their professional skills and ensure they are poised for advancement opportunities within the organization. Needed skills such as commercial driving, food protection, sales and Microsoft Excel are among the courses being offered.

WDI is also supporting GrowNYC’s FarmRoots program to deliver skills workshops in agricultural production and business management to beginning farmers. These trainings educate farmers to start their own environmentally and economically sustainable farm businesses at a time when the average age of farmers in the United States is close to 60 and most have no identified successor for their farm business. In order to keep fresh food grown locally in production, assistance for new farmers is crucial. This program will play an important role in development of skills for these new Farmers around New York State. Areas of focus will include identifying land, accessing start-up capital, and developing efficient production skills.

United Way’s AAI Program Underscores Success of “Group Sponsor” Model in Boosting Apprenticeships (Western New York)

Date: March 06, 2019

Prior WDI newsletters reported on the growing importance and success of the Group Sponsor/Intermediary as a mechanism to engage employers with the apprenticeship model. The American Apprenticeship Initiative (AAI), facilitated by the United Way of Buffalo & Erie County, is another example of how this model continues to see success.

As skilled tradespeople retire, companies are threatened with a significant loss of knowledge and experience. The United Way of Buffalo & Erie County was awarded the AAI grant from the U.S. Department of Labor in October 2015 to address this issue. The five-year, $2.9 million grant is designed to help advanced manufacturers create and enhance their registered apprenticeship programs via both financial and administrative support. WDI has partnered with the United Way on this initiative by providing an equipment stipend for registered apprentices to offset the cost of tools, clothing and textbooks needed for their apprenticeships, and by performing outreach to manufacturers to raise awareness about the program and the role apprenticeships fill in reducing the skills gap and creating a pipeline of employees.

The AAI Program of Western New York currently works with 44 advanced manufacturing companies in 7 counties (Erie, Niagara, Chautauqua, Monroe, Ontario, Wayne, Genesee). There are 167 active apprentices enrolled, 31% of whom are from underrepresented districts.

We support this Group Sponsorship model and similar ones managed by the Manufacturing Association of Central NY (MACNY) and others as a viable means of easing the burden on the employer of launching and managing apprenticeships  – and ultimately boosting the use of apprenticeships as a mechanism to move individuals up a career ladder.

Training Truck Drivers for North Country-Based Jobs (North Country)

Date: March 06, 2019

A recent series of roundtable discussions between North Country employers and workforce and economic development partners focused on a skills shortage in transportation. Area businesses face a critical shortage of drivers, an issue growing more acute due to the aging population of this workforce. In addition, trucking is also often overlooked as a viable career by the emerging workforce.

The roundtable discussions revealed that the truck driver shortage is exacerbated in the North Country because the region does not have an active training program for Commercial Driver’s License (CDL-A or CDL-B). The National Tractor Trailer School in Syracuse is the closest option, although the cost of travel and lodging makes this program prohibitive for many businesses in the North Country.

The discussions led to WDI and SUNY Canton’s non-credit center (CREST) working together to develop a program which will soon be offered in 2019 (curriculum is under development). 

SUNY Canton CREST anticipates up to 24 participants per year will graduate from the program with a CDL-A certification and access to jobs paying $14-$19/hour at a wide variety of North Country employers.

Greyston’s New Pilot Program “Ready, Set, Work” Sees Success (Lower Hudson Valley)

Date: March 06, 2019

Greyston is a leading social enterprise that addresses inequality and recidivism through human capital innovation and holistic support services.  While individuals wait on the organization’s patented Open Hiring™ waitlist they are eligible to participate in Greyston’s workforce development program, which offers skills training and job placement services at no cost to facilitate their ongoing or reengagement in the workforce.   In 2017 training initiatives successfully provided hard skills training to 101 individuals, 63% of whom were then placed into full-time employment.

Greyston is constantly seeking new and innovative programming to engage underserved individuals.  During 2018 a grant from WDI enabled the organization to pilot a new program -  Ready, Set, Work - for 18 individuals. The pilot was designed to serve the unique needs of individuals recently released from prison or jail in order to successfully transition them back into the workforce. Participants were trained and then immediately apprenticed as part of Greyston’s Rangers Program – a neighborhood beautification transitional workforce program that keeps main thoroughfares and designated areas of Yonkers clean, promoting business attraction and community pride. While in the program participants were given full access to wraparound supportive services and case management via Rangers Mentors and, upon completion of the program, were eligible for permanent job placement within the Greyston Bakery or with an outside employer partner.  The Rangers Mentors model has proven to be a powerful and important source of support in this first pilot.

The pilot concluded in November 2018 with an 89% completion rate (16); as of January 2019 nine (9) of the participants have been placed at employers throughout Westchester County with average starting wages 15% higher than the 2018 county minimum wage. The remaining participants finished their transitional employment with the Rangers in January and are currently working with Greyston’s Job Developer to find successful placement within the community.

Greyston management feels they have a winning model and is actively looking for ways to expand and continue the program. WDI recognizes that there are some formulas for success here that can be used in other programs throughout the state.

Gaining Understanding of the Role of Assessments in Workforce Development (Statewide)

Date: March 06, 2019

On February 19-20, the Institute for the Future located in Palo Alto, CA held a colloquium on the Future of Assessment. WDI was invited to participate along with approximately 50 other global and national leaders. Stakeholders included foundations, corporations, and workforce nonprofits focused on the rapidly emerging shift happening in learning and employment, including the need for more personalization. Assessment was highlighted as critical in understanding the knowledge and skills one has for the future of work. At the summit, the publication "Shift Happens 2: Finding Strong Footing: The Future of Assessment in the Learning-to-Employment Landscape", was released by our national partner, Innovate+Educate, that explores the major shifts occurring in the learning to employment sphere. Topics discussed in the publication include the growing importance of online learning, the populations that are pursuing ongoing or continuous learning, and the use of assessments and demonstrated “skill mastery” (as opposed to a specific degree) as mechanisms for individuals to move ahead.

WDI found the event impactful, and we look forward to continuing to be part of these conversations to ensure that New York has the most forward-thinking information available. For more information, contact WDI's Director of Workforce Strategies, Lois Johnson at ljohnson@wdiny.org.

Focus on Renewable Energy: WDI Participates in IBEW Trainer Summit (Statewide)

Date: March 06, 2019

New York State’s renewable energy and climate goals are creating opportunities for members of the skilled trades. However, even those who are highly skilled and well-trained must stay current on sector trends and technologies in the industry as they impact the workforce. The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) does just that. Last November, IBEW Training Directors and Trainers from across the state gathered for the third annual IBEW Trainers’ Summit to discuss best practices, new technologies, and the future of the industry. The summit was sponsored, in part, via a grant from the WDI.

Lois Johnson, WDI Director of Workforce Strategies and Ross Gould, WDI Energy Program Manager, also shared what WDI staff are seeing and hearing in the field.

Johnson shared an update on WDI’s initiative around Future Skills Exchange, an online clearinghouse (in development) of assessments, skills and credentials required of jobs, and training programs to find those skills and credentials. Discussion also focused on how such a platform could potentially provide IBEW locals a new way to connect with a broader pool of apprentices.

Gould shared the latest information about the renewable energy sector in New York State, including energy programs and funding available to help with the costs of developing and updating curriculum to incorporate new skills required in the field of renewable energy. Gould also shared WDI’s ground level intelligence around the skills and occupations in demand in renewable energy, which include:
  - Sales, Estimating, and Bidding
  - Project Management
  - Project Development
  - Mechanical Trades with both renewable energy training and experience 
  - Electrical engineers

Gould noted that the skills gap in these areas are potential barriers to New York contractors participating in the opportunities available in the energy industry in New York. Greater contractor participation would provide good paying local jobs for the building and construction trades living in the area of a solar or wind farm, and provide a highly skilled and well trained workforce for renewable energy project developers. WDI has been working to raise awareness of this issue, and to develop some training programs that could be used by contractors.


Offshore Wind Creates Opportunities for Workforce and Businesses Across NYS (Statewide)

Date: March 06, 2019

While it may seem farfetched, an onshore upstate workforce could help fuel New York’s future offshore downstate wind industry. In fact, offshore wind has the potential to bring thousands of good paying jobs spread across New York State. Here is a quick look at a few recent and upcoming events in the offshore wind industry that are providing a glimpse of the potential for upstate jobs from a down state power source.

Development of a New York State Offshore Wind Supply Chain Database

In the fall of last year, NYSERDA published the offshore wind supply chain database, which showcases New York companies with the capabilities of performing work in offshore wind. In all, 452 NY companies self-identified. Those companies can be found from Buffalo to Long Island and from the North Country to NYC. 48% of the businesses, labor unions, and others that self-identified were from upstate New York. (WNY 13%, RGV 13%, CAP 11% and CNY 8%). 

Release of NYSERDA’s 2018 Port Assessments

In February, NYSERDA released its 2018 Ports Assessments, which were completed in order to identify those facilities with the greatest feasibility for offshore wind use, and to develop a deeper understanding of activities that could take place at each one. In total there were six (6) studies released, including two (2) studies focused on upstate ports.

·         Port of Coeymans (Ravena, NY)

o   This port is currently seeking offshore wind business opportunities for uses of the facility.

o   The site may potentially support manufacturing and fabrication activities. For example, this may include manufacturing of nacelles, towers, or blades and foundation fabrication or substation fabrication activities.

o   This port will require infrastructure improvement and/or rehabilitation in order to support certain scopes of offshore wind operations.


·         Port of Albany

o   This port is capable of supporting a range of staging and installation, foundation fabrication, and substation fabrication activities.

o   This port may potentially support manufacturing and fabrication activities. For example, this may include manufacturing of nacelles, towers, or blades, foundation fabrication, or substation fabrication activities.

In short, both of these locations could have workers performing manufacturing, fabrication, welding, electrical work, rigging and hoisting heavy loads, and transporting supplies/parts (among other functions).

Response to Proposals (from Developers) for Offshore Wind Contracts

On February 14th, four (4) developers submitted 18 proposals in response to the state’s RFP seeking offshore wind project proposals. One of the developers identified Port of Coeymans as a location for fabricating foundations and transitional pieces.

New York City and Long Island

Yes, there are also workforce opportunities for both Long Island and New York City, in different capacities. In fact, Long Island and New York City could gain 2,000 jobs in operations and maintenance work alone. In addition, Long Island will experience substantial construction-related expenditures for the onshore cable route and grid connection.

NYC is also anticipated to see workforce opportunities for jobs ranging from stevedores to financial modelers. One developer, Vineyard Wind, declared that NYC would be home to a project office should it win a contract from New York State.

What’s Next? Participate in an Upcoming Forum around Offshore Wind!

In April there is a great opportunity for businesses to become part of the NYS offshore wind supply chain. The 2019 International Offshore Wind Partnering Forum (IPF) will be held in New York City from April 8-10th. We invite you to join WDI’s Board Chair Ellen Redmond and Energy Program Manager Ross Gould at this event to understand how your company, union, or training entity can become more involved in these exciting developments.

2019 International Offshore Wind Partnering Forum (IPF)
April 8-10th, 2019
New York City, New York

Hosted by The Business Network Offshore Wind, the experts on the U.S. OSW market. Attend the International Offshore Wind Partnering Forum (IPF), the leading U.S. Offshore Wind event. Learn the latest information on the U.S. market, regulatory updates, technical information and upcoming RFPs. Generate more business by signing up for WindMatch, the IPF’s exclusive B2B networking event. Make connections, generate leads, and grow your project pipeline.

 Don’t Miss This Must-Attend Industry Event! For details, visit offshorewindus.org/2019ipf.

Made in the Southern Tier- Chemung County Chamber of Commerce Video Series (Rochester/Genesee)

Date: March 06, 2019

We are in an era of ongoing technological progress that has resulted in new ways of work for many sectors. Manufacturing is one of the top areas in today’s job market that has relatively low barriers for entry, pays well, has opportunities for career growth, makes use of new technology that appeals to young workers, and has many unfilled positions across the state. The fact that many people ask questions about manufacturing as a career choice, however, tells us that there continues to be a need to better inform our communities of the opportunities in this important sector.

The Deloitte 2018 skills gap in manufacturing study notes that approximately 2.4 million positions are on track to go unfilled through 2028.  This high number of potentially unfilled positions warrants students, parents, guidance counselors, teachers, and the community to be aware of the new skills needed to succeed in this industry. Recognizing and promoting manufacturing as a viable career path will help to decrease old misperceptions and begin to steer new workers toward this high demand field with limitless opportunities.

To that end, the Chemung County Chamber of Commerce is working to raise the profile of manufacturing jobs in the Southern Tier. With the support of WDI and several local employers, the Chamber developed the “Made in the Southern Tier” video project to highlight the sector and prompt more students and job seekers to consider manufacturing as a career choice.  These videos are being shown in classrooms and are being used by manufacturers and workforce partners in support of manufacturing jobs. They help paint a clear picture of what modern manufacturing looks like, the benefits of manufacturing careers, local training opportunities that provide a clear path to these jobs, and the personal and professional success that this career path can provide for local Chemung County students and its workforce. 


View the latest “Made in the Southern Tier” video below. All videos can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/user/ChemungChamberNY.

Career Ambassadors Serve as a Key Connection between Employers and Youth (Long Island)

Date: March 06, 2019

On Long Island, WDI has been working with partners to develop a Career Ambassadors program in order to identify, train, and then deploy senior level employees of color from manufacturing, biotechnology, finance, healthcare, and the trades to Long Island’s high minority schools. The goal: discussion of career pathways and opportunities and pursuit of those opportunities by a more diverse population.

Recently the Urban League of Long Island hosted the first Career Ambassador session at Hempstead High School. LI STEM Hub has also engaged WDI to identify Career Ambassadors for the STEM Diversity Summit being held at Farmingdale State College on March 19th. To date the program has 10 companies providing key personnel for the initiative…and the numbers are growing.

The Career Ambassadors will help students understand how to prepare and access various careers. The hope for the program is that the ambassadors will also facilitate worksite tours and provide one-on-mentoring. This is a pilot program that we are watching carefully as a potential mechanism to strengthen connections and the flow of information to high schools. More to come!

Growing Manufacturing Capacity and Skills via a New Training Center and MakerSpace (NYC)

Date: March 06, 2019

WDI awarded a grant to MakerSpace NYC to help equip a new space in the Brooklyn Army Terminal with tools and equipment that will be used for training, prototyping, and small batch manufacturing. The New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) manages the space which is part of FutureWorks NYC, a key component of New York City’s Industrial Action Plan to help emerging and existing manufacturers adopt advanced technologies and increase local production. New York City’s Department of Small Business Services (SBS) has contracted with MakerSpace NYC to deliver training as part of their ApprenticeNYC program; providing technical training in CNC Machining to cohorts of Apprentices hired by local NYC manufacturers in need of talent with these skills.

WDI’s support will benefit A
pprentices as they train and prepare to start the on-the-job portion of their Apprenticeships, manufacturers who plan to engage MakerSpace NYC to train incumbent workers in a range of manufacturing skills, and start-up hardware manufacturers that will use the equipment for product development and prototyping.

WDI assisted MakerSpace NYC’s Staten Island location with the purchase of CNC equipment in 2017. That CNC equipment is used regularly by 50-60 users, with roughly 1/3 of those users running small manufacturing businesses.

*Sneak Peek* to WDI's Redesigned Website! (Statewide)

Date: March 06, 2019

WDI is excited to announce the approaching launch of our redesigned website! The updated site will include a new section called News & Views, a compilation of WDI in the news, what we’re working on, what we see, as well as viewpoints on a variety of workforce-related topics.

Below is a preview of our first News & Views post, written by WDI Policy Analyst Eliot Cresswell, which discusses the connections between Upstate New York and Downstate New York in terms of impact to the workforce. In our regional and statewide work, we see profound interconnections that make for one integrated state where Upstate and Downstate rely heavily on one another. A few areas are mentioned where we’ve been working lately, and where these interdependencies run quite deep. Take a read – and look for the announcement of our new site – coming soon!


Upstate / Downstate

When people meet New Yorkers for the first time, there is an inevitable moment of clarification. "Oh, you're from New York," they'll say. "The city or the state?" The remainder of the conversation often depends on the answer to this question. This is born of the widely-held assumption that New York City and its surroundings are fundamentally different and detached from so-called “Upstate New York.” People from Upstate, goes the thinking, can’t relate to life in New York City and vice versa. The hustle-and-bustle lifestyle among the city’s skyscrapers seems a world apart from the slower, quainter pace in New York’s small towns and rural areas. Concrete high-rises give way to cows in pastures outside the greater metro area. We are separated by our pizza preferences, our accents, the sports teams we support, the way we make a living, the way we look, and how we view the world. Some go so far as to say that Downstate and Upstate might as well be two separate states altogether. From afar, it’s easy to see how this viewpoint takes hold.

As a statewide organization, WDI’s staff set foot in every county and borough of New York State. We meet first hand with labor unions, business owners, community organizations, educators, students, and others. We listen to their stories, their worries, their plans for the future, and their workforce challenges. Whenever possible, we work with them to find practical, innovative ways to help them grow and hire, retain, promote, or place workers in quality, good paying jobs. This ground-level, regional approach is our bread and butter and we’ve been doing it for years. We have great partners in every corner of the state and we use every opportunity to learn from them. One of the most compelling lessons we’ve learned is that, while there are important differences between our state’s regions, New York State functions as a single, interdependent, interconnected system. Upstate and Downstate operate on a complementary basis in ways that define our identity and move our economy.

Transit Manufacturing’s Supply Chain

New York City is home to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), the country’s largest public transit system. The New York City subway and bus systems alone carry over seven million riders on an average weekday.1 The MTA system is a downstate system; it does not serve beyond the New York’s Lower Hudson Valley. However, the busses, rail cars, and subway cars that New York City residents rely on are manufactured by their fellow New Yorkers, often well outside the MTA’s service map. In recent years, WDI has focused on learning more about New York’s transportation manufacturing sector and its workforce dynamics. In addition to the well-established and well-known original equipment manufacturers (OEM) such as Kawasaki, New Flyer, and Nova Bus, we have identified 200 companies and counting in every region that contribute to the MTA supply chain.2 Each of these large OEMs relies on a network of small- and medium-sized specialty manufacturers all across New York State to supply electrical assemblies, brake parts, hoses, sensors, seating, lighting, safety and communication systems, windows, and dozens of other components. Together, these supply chain companies employ tens of thousands of New Yorkers in jobs like engineer, technician, sales representative, manager, assembler, welder, designer, and quality assurance officer. This transit manufacturing supply chain is driven in large part by the MTA’s multi-billion dollar Capital Program budget, which is a mix of federal, state, city, and MTA funding.2 Contracts sourced from the MTA’s Capital Program create a lasting economic and workforce ripple effect well beyond the downstate area served by the MTA’s busses, rail cars, and subways. In addition to the MTA, New York State’s transit manufacturing companies do business with other transit systems such as BART (San Francisco), AMTRAK, and SEPTA (Philadelphia), further extending the economic and workforce ripple effect.

Forest Economy

City busses and subway cars are not the only examples of the robust commerce that happens between Upstate and Downstate New York. New York is home to some of the most productive and coveted forests in the United States. Each year, logging companies responsibly harvest species such as birch, maple, ash, fir, hemlock, and pine and deliver them all over New York State. Once out of the forest, these trees are transformed by New York’s so-called “secondary wood-using” companies into an impressive array of products: lumber, musical instruments, fine furniture, wood pellets, boats, firewood, veneers, building materials, and millwork to name a few. Secondary wood-using companies employ New Yorkers in every region of the state including all five boroughs of New York City.

Food Supply

There is scant published comprehensive data on the exact geographic origins of New York City’s entire food supply. However, we know that an estimated 28 million tons of food moves into and around New York City and its surrounding counties each year, roughly 48% of which originated in the Northeast United States.3 At Hunts Point in the Bronx, the country’s largest produce market, an estimated 4% of food comes from New York State producers. This equates to roughly $100 million in annual business from a single – albeit large – food hub.4 While it is difficult to pinpoint the amount outside of Hunts Point that originates from within New York State, suffice it to say that a significant portion of New York City’s food supply comes from Upstate New York. Conversely, out of New York City and into Upstate flow myriad food products that are processed, packaged, and shipped from the five boroughs using ingredients and expertise of all kinds. Upstate helps feed Downstate; Downstate helps feed Upstate. And thousands of New Yorkers in a variety of occupations make this interchange happen every day.

Movement of People

The movement of people is perhaps the most compelling and complicated aspect of the connection between Upstate and Downstate and one to which many of us can relate. According to US Census data, between 2012 and 2016, close to 900,000 people either moved to New York State from outside or moved to a different county or borough within New York State. Breaking down this data, we find that greater than 50 percent of these moves were by people relocating within New York State.5 This data reflects hundreds of thousands of individual stories, each of them the result of a variety of forces, some measurable, some not. Perhaps more often than we can notice, Downstaters become Upstaters and vice versa. They may move to New York City for a job or to attend a university. Others leave the five boroughs of New York City to raise a family or be closer to family. This exchange is in constant motion, like threads in a loom. Each New Yorker, whatever their zip code or background, belongs equally to our vibrant, diverse statewide tapestry.

WDI continues to explore workforce and economic aspects of the connections between Upstate and Downstate. We invite you to join us in these discussions.

For more information on the topics in this article, consult the resources below:

MTA Homepage

MTA Capital Program Data

Built in New York, MTA (2011)

Passenger Rail & Transit Rail Manufacturing in the U.S., Blue Green Alliance (2015)

New Yorkers for Better Public Transit

Fuzehub article on Transit Manufacturing in New York State

Empire State Forest Products Association

New York State Wood Products Development Council

New York State Logging & Forest Economy: Workforce Development Programs Report

New York City Food Policy Center, Hunter College