Workforce Development Challenge

Empire State Development

Designed to promote and invest in innovative approaches to workforce training for underserved populations, the Workforce Development Challenge – Empire State Development (WDC) was created to ensure the region’s workforce pipeline is responsive to industry demands. The WDC will help scale up organizations doing high-impact, result-oriented workforce training that can demonstrate strong outcomes in training, job placement and retention. It will facilitate partnerships with community and neighborhood-based organizations with proven track records for outreach and recruitment. It will also support target sectors ripe for growth in jobs and career ladder opportunities for entry-level and mid-skill workers, while funding best practice models that maximize collaboration between business and workforce trainers.

How to Apply

Applications must be submitted electronically online through the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo’s Foundant Grant Lifecycle manager. Only applications submitted online through Foundant will be accepted.

Grant Opportunity

The Workforce Development Challenge-Empire State Development will consider proposals that:

  • Support target industry sectors ripe for growth by expanding the workforce pipeline through meaningful industry partnerships leading to industry-driven training
  • Prepare unemployed and underemployed populations for high-demand, higher paying jobs with potential for career advancement
  • Create career opportunities for entry-level and mid-skill workers
  • Increase the capacity of grassroots, community-based organizations with proven track records in results-oriented workforce training
  • Invest in both innovative approaches to workforce training to better serve industry needs, as well as best practice models that maximize collaboration among industry, employers and workforce trainers
  • Ensure that workers of all skill levels, socioeconomic groups and geographies have opportunities to progress in the labor force

Grant awards are determined by Empire State Development.


  • Applications will be accepted online beginning March 8, 2018
  • A public information meeting is scheduled for March 26, 2018
  • The application deadline is May 18, 2018 at 4 p.m.
  • Funding decisions will be announced by summer 2018
  • For more information and to register for the public meeting, please click here.


Applicants must:

  • Be a not-for-profit corporation with Section 501(c)(3) status, as determined by the Internal Revenue Service. A not-for-profit corporation must be registered and up-to-date with filings with the New York State Office of the Attorney General’s Charities Bureau.
  • Have an established track record of effective training and trusted relationships within communities.
  • Be located in or provide services to Erie, Niagara, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua and/or Allegany counties.
  • Demonstrate the development and financial management expertise to successfully develop, design, construct, manage and implement the project.
  • Demonstrate ownership or site control (i.e., lease or letter of intent to lease) of all real estate considered part of the proposed projects (for capital projects).

Projects must:

  • Foster workforce development in at least one of the region’s target industry sectors, including advanced manufacturing, health and life sciences, tourism, energy and agriculture
  • Be in partnership with a business, or multiple businesses to maximize job placement following training
  • Train populations that are out of the labor force, unemployed, underemployed/working poor or employed workers seeking upskilling
  • Prepare participants for entry and advancement in the aforementioned regional target industries with a preference for high-demand, living wage jobs (i.e., jobs that pay the regional average of about $45,000 a year) with career advancement
  • Be a new program or project and be considered a best-practice model that is able to be replicated


For questions regarding the Community Foundation’s online applications system, please contact Ba Zan Lin at call (716) 852-2857, ext. 243.

For all other questions related to the Workforce Development Challenge-Empire State Development, please contact John Risio at

Additional Information

To download general information and guidelines about the 2018 Workforce Development Challenge-Empire State Development, please click here.