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.

Mining Training Program Leads to Skills and Jobs (North Country)

Date: August 31, 2018

When the Titan Mine Corp. decided to purchase and re-open the Empire State Mine, a defunct zinc mine in Balmat, NY (St. Lawrence County), they knew there would be a need for training workers. What they did not count on was the extent of that need or the cost associated with training so many individuals. An aging workforce has led to a shortage of workers employed within the mining industry and it was therefore likely that most training participants would have no mining experience at all.

Titan consulted with WDI North Country Regional Director Greg Hart on a strategy for the implementation of and cost assistance for a training program. These discussions led to contracting with Dumas Contracting USA for the establishment of the Dumas Stope School to help fully prepare workers to the rigors of deep earth mining. WDI’s agreement to support the program was what Titan needed to bring other potential partners to the table as well.

Funded through a partnership with the New York State Power Authority and WDI, the Dumas Stope School training program consisted of ten 13-week training programs that resulted in approximately 60 individuals in developing the skills necessary to meet requirements for employment at the Empire State Mine. These individuals were local to the North Country, including some recent veterans.

On July 19, 2018, the mine training program graduated its first round of trainees; their first day on the job site began the very next day. The next round of trainees began their course on July 23rd.

Once the mine is fully operational, there will be a total of 180-plus workers employed at this facility. Although underground hard rock miners are a key occupation, not all employees will be skilled miners. Other jobs will include geologists, electricians, mill wrights, diesel mechanics, HR, finance, supervisors, planners, engineers, mill workers, heavy equipment operators, shipping, and warehouse workers. These employees will be provided with a high wage, medical, vision, dental, disability and life insurances, paid vacation, and retirement benefits.

Although mining may invoke a picture of dirty and dangerous work, this is not the case for the Empire State Mine. Former Governor of New York State, George Pataki, who spoke at the grand opening of the mine noted that it is “…a 21st century mine. It is a completely different thing than most people have of the conception of mining."

This operation of the Empire State Mine is expected to have a tremendously positive effect on the North Country. The training program will provide individuals with valuable skills and good paying jobs. The success of this program and the mine is anticipated to boost the economy of the North Country. 

New Program in Upper Manhattan Graduates Twenty-Two (New York City)

Date: August 31, 2018

Concerned with the lack of good job opportunities for young people within her community, Senator Marisol Alcantara asked WDI for help in facilitating training that could lead to good jobs. Through WDI’s prior work with Pathways2Apprenticeship (P2A), a pre-apprentice program for the construction trades, a new program was launched in upper Manhattan, with funding and facilitation provided by WDI.

The P2A program is a four-week series of Direct Entry classes that prepare low-income New Yorkers for the opportunity to seek a better life through employment in the unionized electrical, plumbing, and carpentry trades. The P2A program provides students with the preparation, training, and recommendations to be accepted into a union construction apprenticeship program. This past June, twenty-two (22) participants completed the program and began their journey towards the completion of an apprenticeship. Most graduates were paired with employment opportunities in Construction & General Building Laborers Local 79, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 3, Bricklayers & Allied Craftworkers Local 1, and UA Plumbers Local 1. 

CUNY in the Heights served as the venue for the training program. Senator Alcantara and staff provided assistance with advertising, structure, and support for this most recent run of the program, and the Senator has stayed involved with each new participant group. 

P2A began as a volunteer effort in 2013 and has since evolved into a program that has assisted almost 200 participants be admitted into apprenticeship programs. As a Direct Entry Provider, P2A not only prepares participants for a construction career, but also virtually guarantees graduates placement in a union apprenticeship program. P2A maintains an agreement with eight (8) different labor unions to interview graduates of the program, thereby giving graduates the opportunity to be accepted by registered union apprenticeship programs outside of the general recruitment process. 

As part of this program, participants received OSHA 30 and confined space certificates, a weekly stipend of $250, lunch, MetroCards to get to class, and personal trades equipment such as helmets and boots. P2A is committed to the success of all program participants throughout their careers. To ensure the success of their participants, P2A mentors all program graduates through the first year of their apprenticeship with the goal of keeping all apprentices in touch with P2A throughout the course of their careers. 

The next round of the Pathways2Apprenticeship program began on July 9th and is expected to conclude on August 30th with another group of graduates prepared for apprenticeships.

Skills Recognition and Verification for Job Placement (New York City)

Date: August 31, 2018

A major initiative was launched in June 2018 by New York City's largest public sector union, District Council 37 (DC 37). It is the first large labor union in the United States to offer digital badges and credentials for its members.

Through its partnership with Credly, the organization that creates, issues, and manages digital credentials, this initiative will help the union's 127,000 members obtain skills needed for jobs they are interested in today, but also for changes to jobs occurring due to automation. In addition, employers will have the opportunity to view an individual's verified credentials that demonstrate skills and competencies.

WDI worked with DC 37 to support a new computer lab for the union. The prior lab had been destroyed by Hurricane Sandy and the union had been using various labs at local colleges. WDI also provided assistance for the aforementioned digital badging system that will allow tracking of member skills and certifications as they are attained.


Program Sees Success and Job Placements with the Building & Construction Trades (Rochester/Genesee)

Date: August 31, 2018

On July 14th, the Rochester Multi-Craft Apprenticeship Preparation Program (MAPP) celebrated fourteen individuals who completed a multi-week “bootcamp” style pre-apprentice program in preparation for a career with the Rochester Building and Construction Trades.  
The group of individuals started out in a program called “Project Phoenix” working alongside union journey workers on lower level tasks associated with rehabbing blighted city properties. Once they showed aptitude on Project Phoenix, they were formally admitted into the MAPP.

“The program is life-changing”, says the program’s Director, Kereem Berry (a union electrician himself), “because it opens the door to a lifelong career to which graduates might otherwise not have access”. Berry notes that all of the graduates come from backgrounds that are under-represented in the Rochester construction industry - a statistic his program is trying to change. Berry also laments a system which hasn’t properly prepared young men and women interested in these high-paying jobs, and notes they often lack basic math and reading skills. The MAPP covers a number of topics these individuals will need - including construction math, soft skills, reading comprehension, use of tools, and basics of the construction industry. “One participant”, he says, “took a test to become a carpenter and failed the math section because he couldn’t multiply fractions. After some one-on-one math tutoring, the participant retested and scored a 90 out of 100 and was placed in a job”.

Berry and his colleague Gerard Hunt came up with the idea of Project Phoenix as an extended “interview” mechanism that also serves as a win-win for the trainees and the city. The properties are rehabbed and the candidates get a chance to show what they can do.

The program is typically a 12 week program, but was so successful during this recent run that some of the students were being recruited by the Trades before the 12 week period had been completed. The July 14th event celebrated 14 graduates and 13 placements (the 14th individual opted out) with four at the Bricklayers, two with the IBEW, two with the Glaziers, two with the Carpenters, one with the Pipefitters, one with the Ironworkers, and one with the Laborers.

Accelerated Apprenticeship Program (AAP) Continues To See Success (Central New York)

Date: August 31, 2018

A successful manufacturing training program that results from collaboration between employers and several workforce organizations has now been moved twice successfully. (See “Earn While You Learn in Madison County” in the WDI Winter/Spring 2018 Newsletter.) The most recent iteration of the Accelerated Apprenticeship Program (AAP) occurred in Tioga County, and this version of the program has seen it morph again into an even more flexible model that serves different types of employers.

Trainees are paid throughout the multiple week training program and employers guarantee employment upfront. The most recent run of the program, in Tioga County, enrolled 8 students and saw program elements adjusted at the request of the participating employers.

Prior versions of the program, in Madison and Onondaga Counties, were targeted only to employers interested in hiring and training Machinists. In addition, students went through 9 weeks of training and were then sent to participating employers. At the Tioga County employers’ request, the program was changed to 1) accommodate multiple trades and 2) allow the employers earlier access to the students so that they could help shape programming. In short, students trained 4 hours/day and then spent time each day with their respective employers. Depending on the match-up with the employer, the type of job an individual could be training for was one of several: CNC Machining, Plant Maintenance, Maintenance Mechanic, Electronics Technician, or Electrical Maintenance.

These changes to the program were significant because it proved that different types of manufacturers could find potential employees through the program; the training was not only for those employers looking for the same type of employee. A final change to the Tioga program saw it move from a purely pre-employment (new workers) program to a mix of incumbent workers and new workers.

This training program is an excellent mechanism to attract potential employees (paid training) and is responsive to employer needs in that it can be moved anywhere and can accommodate whatever targeted training the employer wants.

WDI and partners are looking to move this successful model again. Potential future programs may include a second round in Tioga County and/or a first in Chemung County or Broome County.

Developing a Pipeline for the Logging/Forestry Sector (North Country)

Date: August 31, 2018

This August saw the second cohort of future forest professionals participate in WDI’s Timber Harvest Internship Program. A total of 16 individuals hailing from Central New York, the Mohawk Valley, and the North Country have been placed in internship opportunities with a mix of employers. The interns – 12 of whom are recent graduates of the School of Logging program delivered by Paul Smith’s College – are working at sawmills, logging companies, utility line clearing companies, and forest management organizations.

Through the program, interns obtain valuable, first-hand experience with high quality companies while gaining a well-rounded look at how the industry works and what skills and knowledge it requires of them. WDI subsidizes the pay for each intern at a rate of up to $15 per hour. Interns work side-by-side with seasoned professionals. Josh Pierce, WDI’s timber harvest internship coordinator, works very closely with each employer and intern to make sure the placement is a good match for all involved. At the close of the internships, employers are encouraged to hire interns who have the requisite skills, demonstrate interest, and possess a strong work ethic.

Greg Hart, WDI’s North Country Regional Director, has long studied and partnered with logging companies, furniture makers, sawmills, and other companies in New York’s forest economy chain. “The existing pipeline of students-to-training-to-employment wasn't working for many companies,” he explains. “New models were needed to support the forest economy’s demand for new workers who had an interest in the field, whose skills were fresh, and who wanted to gain practical experience. In collaboration with New York Logger Training, Paul Smith’s College, and Josh Pierce, we envisioned robust interactions between new employees who could learn while strengthening the participating businesses.” These interactions have, in fact, opened the door to real job opportunities. “What we developed in the Timber Harvest Internship Program,” shared Hart, “was a way to build skills and expertise in every link of the forest economy chain.”

In addition to the internship program, WDI is also working with Paul Smith’s College to deliver another “Troops to Timber” program through Fort Drum’s Soldier for Life-Transition Assistance Program. The second delivery, currently in the planning phase, will connect veterans at or near the end of their military service to career information and training opportunities within New York’s forest economy.

To learn more about WDI’s forest economy programs, read our recent report (available here).

A Collaboration Results in In-Demand Certification and Employment (Western New York)

Date: August 31, 2018

Manufacturing employers in Western NY were looking for individuals with the skills of a Certified Production Technician (CPT), but could not find them.

Enter a collaboration between the Erie Workforce Development Board (Erie WDB), the Erie 1 BOCES, and WDI that resulted in a unique combination of classroom learning and on-the-job experience that allowed participants to earn CPT certification (a certification endorsed by the National Association of Manufacturing) and also gain employment.

The details of the 13- week program were as follows:

- 14 participants were recruited and vetted by the Erie WDB and several participating employers.
- After the participants were selected, Imagine Staffing (a temp agency) registered participants and administered drug tests.
- Once the program began, participants spent two days a week working for potential employers (gaining on-the-job experience) and then three days a week studying the CPT program at the Erie 1 BOCES.
- The participants were paid as temp workers during their two days/week at the employer sites at a rate of $10.50/hour.

WDI’s role in the program was to both support the on-the-job training component by reimbursing employers for taking on the trainees, and recruiting employers to the CPT program.

Of the 14 initial participants,

- 11 participants completed the program (3 dropped out for personal reasons)
- 10 of the 11 were hired (the 11th was offered employment but declined due to financial and travel concerns)
- 7 of the 10 were offered employment at one of the 4 participating employers.
- A fifth company made offers of employment to the remaining 3 participants who had completed the program, and all accepted.

Feedback from the employers and the job seekers was that the program allowed the companies to see how a potential applicant might fit into their existing workforce, and also provided the job seekers with needed experience. Additionally, providing trainees with pay for the on-the-job training component helped to prevent departures for short term employment opportunities with no longevity or benefits.

Several of the companies from this first round have already expressed interest in future participation of this program. Additional sessions of the program – in both English and Spanish – are planned.

MASH Camp Makes the Connection (North Country)

Date: August 31, 2018

WDI once again supported the North Country’s MASH summer camp (Medical Academy of Science and Health). MASH Camp – managed by the Fort Drum Regional Health Planning Organization - is an incredibly effective way for high school students to gain exposure to and understanding of the various jobs in the health care sector. This year, 3-day summer camps where students shadowed hospital personnel took place at five (5) settings including Samaritan Medical Center, Lewis County General Hospital, Carthage Area Hospital, River Hospital, and Jefferson Community College. The camps have been offered for a number of years during summer and winter breaks, and have proven to be eye opening for students in terms of providing background on the direct and indirect aspects of patient care. The long term goal of the program is to attract North Country students to these jobs, and ideally to retain them in the North Country in this growing sector.

Outreach about the camp is done through local high schools. The Outreach Coordinator(s) arrange with the schools to present –about healthcare jobs, training required, transferrable skills, the fact that the sector is essentially recession proof, etc – for a full day in a core class such as English so that all students receive the information. The result has been that the MASH camp is very much in demand.

Similar camps could be run in other areas and other sectors. Outreach to all students (not just college prep or vocational) at the appropriate age is critical.

Future Skills Exchange to be Launched at NYATEP Fall Conference (Statewide)

Date: August 31, 2018

WDI has partnered with Innovate+Educate, a national non-profit, to build Future Skills Exchange, the first of its kind resource to support new hiring and employment pathways based on skills and competencies  in New York State. Currently, 53.4% of New Yorkers have employment skills but no formal credential or degree, while 41% (around 4 million) have a high school equivalency or less. With the increase in skills required as technology advances, this will likely widen the wage gap between high skill and low skill New Yorkers. We must do better as a state to assure opportunity for all our citizens.

A skills-based system with competency-based credentialing, new earn and learn pathways, registered apprenticeships and other innovations that rely on demonstrated performance rather than solely using a degree as proxy for skills, will be critical to New York’s workforce as well as our continued economic growth.

Future Skills Exchange is an online resource hub providing industry, workforce professionals, economic developers, unions, educators, policymakers, and the workforce with a powerful and trusted source of competency-based training, credentials and assessments as well as hiring resources, strategies, program models, reports, case studies, and more. This curated platform provides powerful search tools to identify validated assessments, credentials and training aligned with specific competencies that support employer hiring and promotion, post-secondary education and training development, and the workforce development system. 

The resource will allow professionals to connect to one another, as well as find information about training, assessments, credentials, labor and demand information, and other resources supporting talent development, talent sourcing and promotion initiatives across New York State.

Supporting the Offshore Wind Industry (Statewide)

Date: August 31, 2018

For many years, WDI has been helping New York State create, grow, and retain good jobs and as industries change, collaborations and solutions have been brought to the table. WDI continues to make the case for jobs associated with renewable energy, and in particular, the emerging offshore wind industry and its potential workforce.

Learn more about this significant opportunity from Long Island Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO President John Durso and WDI's Energy Sector Program Manager, Ross Gould.

WDI Coordinates a Multi-Generational Discussion for Union Members (Rochester/Genesee)

Date: August 31, 2018

Baby Boomers, Millenials, Generation X, Y, and Z…there’s been a  lot in the media about the differences among the generations in terms of motivations, long term goals, habits, work ethic, and more. We have seen many organizations across the state begin to implement culture training that encompasses and embraces the differences among the generations, using them as an asset instead of a liability. Unions have started to make this shift as well. 

On June 28 members of the Southern Tier AFL-CIO came together as part of an effort coordinated by WDI Rochester and Genesee Valley Regional Director Lynn Freid, and facilitated by Judith Rowe, to understand and work together on generational differences. Topics covered included generational communication differences, challenges in the workplace, generational work ethics and values, multigenerational teamwork, and more. The long term goal is to improve interaction among various union generations to improve productivity both in both the workplace and home, and also around larger workplace issues that require teamwork and constant communication among all union members. 

Additional sessions are anticipated.

Creative Economy Symposium Places Focus on Diversity (Capital Region)

Date: August 31, 2018

WDI was a key developer and sponsor of the 2nd Annual Capital Region Creative Economy Symposium which took place on June 21st and 22nd at Proctors in Schenectady. The event was produced in collaboration with Mission Accomplished Transition Services, Upstate Alliance for Creative Economy (ACE), Adirondack Studios, Proctors, and the Themed Entertainment Association.

The focus of the symposium was “The Next Steps Toward a Diverse Workforce,” featuring dialogue among global and regional experts, employees and employers from regional creative enterprises, students, and others seeking entry into creative careers.

The symposium was part of the ongoing Capital Region focus on the Creative Economy. The sector is one of the region’s most significant in terms of overall employment. There are more than 40,000 people employed in a range of industries including, but not limited to: design, media, handcrafted products, visual and performing arts, architecture, museums, and artisanal food and agriculture.

The far-reaching nature of these industries and the projections of continued job growth means that discussions on diversity, opportunity, and inclusion are essential to the vitality of the sector.  As demographics change, employers must expand their recruiting and hiring beyond their traditional prospects. This includes expanding ethnic and racial diversity, looking beyond “traditional” gender roles, adapting to the challenges of multi-generational workplaces, and creating inclusive environments for individuals with disabilities. Employers and industries that struggle to expand their reach will be challenged to survive using their traditional methodologies.

Through presentations and panel discussions, the conference engaged 80 attendees in conversations about recognizing and overcoming obstacles, developing industry-specific educational curriculum, improving diversity hiring practices, and exploring the pathways to creative career opportunities that exist in rural and urban communities. Conference sessions also examined employment barriers facing underserved youth and young creatives, explored locally available vocational and entrepreneurial programs, and celebrated the regional maker heritage and modern maker spaces. The two day event also provided opportunities for attendees to connect with potential employers in creative industries.

The symposium featured keynote speaker Cynthia Sharpe, principal of cultural attractions and research at Thinkwell and co-founder of Harriet B’s Daughters. The event also featured panels and presentations led by Dan Cullen and Ed Murphy of WDI, Carmen Duncan of Mission Accomplished Transition Services, Maureen Sager of ACE, Faryha Chowdhury and Tom Lloyd of Adirondack Studios, Craig “DJ TGIF” Earle, Fri Forjindam of Mycotoo, Bruce Toyama of Besstech, and Kate Baker of SUNY Adirondack.

The conversation will continue on October 25th with “Entrepreneurship and Inclusion,” an event co-sponsored by WDI and ACE to be held at Youth FX in Albany. The 3rd Annual Creative Economy Symposium is scheduled for February 2019 at Proctors.