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Work Train Receives National Award to Advance Economic Opportunity

By Rob Simpson


I'm excited to share that CenterState CEO’s Work Train initiative has been awarded $600,000 from the National Fund for Workforce Solutions to address economic mobility for low-wage workers. Work Train is one of four initiatives nationally to receive this award, made possible by the Ballmer Group. This three-year investment enables Work Train to help build a stronger talent pool for employers in construction and tech-related industries by driving improved workforce-development policies, education and training, and employer practices, ultimately bringing more low-income individuals into the workforce. 

With this investment, Work Train will partner with the city of Syracuse Mayor’s Office to build talent strategies for two mayoral initiatives: Syracuse Surge and Syracuse Build. With both initiatives, Work Train will conduct industry research to determine companies’ intermediate and long-term training needs. Beyond research, Work Train will support the city of Syracuse in convening business, community and workforce partners to ensure that talented Syracuse residents from marginalized communities are able to access the opportunities that come from the public investments related to Syracuse Surge and Syracuse Build. 

Since 2014, Work Train has connected unemployed and underemployed individuals to career opportunities, while helping companies grow strong workforces. Its impact is notable, with 864 participants to date and a job-placement rate of 80 percent. Furthermore, the program reaches some of the most vulnerable in our community — 206 participants have a criminal conviction record, and 247 do not possess a high-school diploma or the equivalent. Through Work Train’s job training and placement efforts, and with a broad range of social-service partners delivering much-needed supports to these individuals, 76 percent of participants who started in our program while receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families from the government were able to get off this public assistance.

Work Train is led by CenterState CEO and supported by a regional funder collaborative, which includes the United Way of Central New York, Allyn Foundation, CNY Community Foundation, Reissman Foundation, Gifford Foundation, the City of Syracuse, and Onondaga County. To learn more about Work Train, contact Karen Kaplan, director of Work Train, at (315) 470-1828 or email: To learn more about the National Fund for Workforce Solutions, visit                   

Robert M. (Rob) Simpson is president and CEO of CenterState CEO, the primary economic-development organization for Central New York. This viewpoint is drawn and edited from the “CEO Focus” email newsletter that the organization sent to members on Jan. 24. 

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