WNY Workforce Development Challenge

Workforce Development Challenge

Lt. Governor Hochul announces the first round awardees of the WNY Workforce Development Challenge.

About WNY Workforce Development Challenge

This program is designed to promote and invest in innovative approaches to workforce training for underserved populations throughout Western New York. The Workforce Development Challenge will help increase the capacity of community-based trainers who have proven track records, trusted community relationships, and outstanding abilities for outreach and recruitment. In addition, it will support programs in the region’s target sectors currently experiencing growth, including advanced manufacturing, health and life sciences, tech, tourism, energy, and agriculture by providing training for unemployed, underemployed, and/or career ladder opportunities for entry-level and mid-skill workers. It funds best practice models that maximize collaboration between business and workforce trainers.  In 2019, to further build on the program’s success, the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation also announced an additional $1.5 million contribution, for a fund total of $11.5 million. 

Second Round Awardees

Governor Cuomo announced in September 2020 that $1.45 million in funding from the second round of the Western New York Workforce Development Challenge was awarded to four local not-for-profit organizations and their projects:

  • Trocaire College Technology Institute (TCTI) Career Reboot Program 
  • New Hope Innovative Career Center 
  • Beginning Farmer Training Program 
  • Advancement Training for Healthcare Occupations (ATHOS): A Rural Innovative Training Opportunity 

Read more about the projects here.

First Round Awardees

Governor Cuomo announced in December 2018 that $4.2 million in funding from the first round the Western New York Workforce Development Challenge was awarded to six local not-for-profit organizations and their projects:

  • Prosperity Strategy to Build a Sustainable Niagara County Workforce
  • Health Careers Academy & Training Center
  • Gerard Place Workforce Development Center
  • New Hope Innovative Health Career Center
  • ATHOS: A Rural Innovative Training Opportunity
  • PUSH Community Energy Workforce Development Project

Read more about the projects here.

Program Status

First round awardees were announced in December 2018.  Second round awardees were announced in September 2020. 

A third round of funding is now closed.  Awardees will be announced in spring 2021. 

Aligning Skills of Workforce to Meet Industry Needs

Research indicates that employers in high-demand, higher-paying industries need to rapidly identify pools of skilled workers and training programs that meet their needs, and over the long-term, influence the skills of the workforce pipeline to better align their needs. Recent research on the labor market in the region included an employer survey showing the majority of companies in Buffalo Niagara report a number of hard-to-fill jobs or hard-to-find skills, suggesting the supply of labor could be better matched to industry needs. Jobs that are difficult to fill today and the skills that are challenging for employers to find will be compounded as industries across the region grow.  The region also faces a looming retirement cliff that will impact the labor supply.

Applying research and best-practices learned through these efforts, the WDC will leverage and build upon the workforce development already happening in the community and will up-skill underserved populations to meet the needs of growing industry sectors, providing opportunities for the workforce throughout all five counties of Western New York.