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Category: Work Train

Welcoming Week 2016

Written by Mary Beth Schwartzwalder  • September 22, 2016


September 16th marked the start of National Welcoming Week  (Sept. 16 – 26), a movement “recognizing that immigrants and refugees make our communities stronger economically, socially, and culturally.” This week and throughout the year we’ll be sharing stories gathered from our own work, as well as the work of our friends and partners, about New Americans whose talents have made our city a better place to live, work, and play.

Below is a list  which includes a collection of stories from the archive that discuss how our city has been shaped by New Americans, past and present. Many thanks to organizations such as InterFaith Works, Catholic Charities of Onondaga County, Hopeprint and the Northside Learning Center for all of their hard work in helping make Syracuse a friendly and welcoming place for these newcomers.

42 Million Have A Name by Hopeprint (2012)

Nicole Watts reflects on the question, “Why do we as America open our gates wide to the immigrant and the refugee?”: “It is not possible to objectify the refugee. They are no longer simply 42 million; they are one and another one. They are orphaned children and homeless families. They are uprooted business men and blossoming adults. They are teenage girls and old men. They are Ah Shim, Jerome, Rana and Bhim. They are friends and they are strangers. They are people. And some of them are our neighbors.”


Video: Monu Chhetri, video produced and edited by Ross Taylor (2014)

Monu, a young chef from My Lucky Tummy, shares her story about giving back to the deaf refugee community: “Humans are social creatures. They’re not meant to be alone and for them to be in their house all the time with absolutely no interaction is boring and sad and lonely. And it’s so important for them to come out and share their feelings whether they’re happy, whether their sad. They have a connection here seeing this. We’re all deaf. We all come from similar experiences that not a lot of people have.”


Fastest Hands on the Northside by Joe Russo (2012)

As a child, Joe Russo remembers visiting the Italian bakeries on the Northside: “Not so long ago I ran into an old school friend who now makes his home in California. ‘I’m back for a visit’, he said, ‘I gotta get a couple loaves. You just can’t get crust like this in California.'”


Green Train Students Act in Play About Their Past (2010)

The Post-Standard discusses the play, “Reflections of the Unsung Genocide of The Congo” developed by Emmanuel Irankunda and Mahirwe Dina Ndeze, graduates of Green Train and refugees from the Congo.


Dinner with Strangers by Adam Sudmann (2014) 

The founder of My Lucky Tummy talks about the food and stories shared as he meets with potential chefs: “I had an idea for a party. Maybe we could convince families to cook foods from home for a popup food court. And so over several weeks we trudged up sludgy snowbanks and into strangers’ homes. Lots of removing of shoes in the cold air. Lots of sitting on floors, being brought bottled water or pepsi or chai. And meals. Meals I will never forget.”


Neighborhood Spotlight: Jai Subedi by Lexie Kwiek (2015)

Our guest blogger from NEHDA introduces a Jai Subedi: “Jai plays numerous roles in the Syracuse community. He is a local business owner, a Northside resident, an InterFaith Works case manager, and he is active on multiple committees. But one of his overarching duties is using his experience as a Bhutanese refugee to help other refugees acclimate to a new country while keeping their culture alive.”


Newhouse Profiles Hari fro UP Start Syracuse, audio recording by Marwa Eltagour (2014)

Up Start entrepreneur and Bhutanese refugee, Hari, shares his idea for a restaurant: “There was nothing of the sort — momo and a few other food — that is not introduced to this place . . . we can make Syracuse as a ‘food of the world.'”

Our Partners Are Hiring!

Written by Mary Beth Schwartzwalder  • April 25, 2016

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Our partners at Cooperative Federal, Home HeadQuarters, Near West Side Initiative, Northeast Hawley Development Association (NEHDA), and Syracuse Model Neighborhood Facility are all looking for AmeriCorps VISTAs. This new cohort of VISTAs will serve at each organization and partner closely with CenterState CEO‘s Economic Inclusion team. Click below for details:

Cooperative Federal

Home HeadQuarters

Near West Side Initiative


Syracuse Model Neighborhood Facility

In addition, Cooperative Federal is hiring for two other team members: Bookkeeping and Mortgage Servicing Specialist and Financial Education and Asset Building Program Specialist. For full descriptions and directions on how to apply, visit CoopFed.org.

Work Train: “A Matchmaker for Employers and the Unemployed”

Written by Mary Beth Schwartzwalder  • March 30, 2016

Work Train

Photo credit: Dennis Nett

Another article from Syracuse.com‘s “The Cost of Poverty” further explores the gaps between job seeker and job opening. Marnie Eisenstadt interviews Kim Townsend, CEO of Loretto, to discuss her experience collaborating with Work Train, a platform that grew out of several workforce initiatives piloted on the Northside: Green Train and Health Train. The platform is housed within CenterState CEO, guided by a Collaborative of funders and workforce stakeholders and lead by Dominic Robinson, Vice President of Economic Inclusion & Director of Northside UP.


“A path out of poverty: How a Syracuse matchmaker united 100 people with an employer”


“Kim Townsend had a problem. Actually, she had 100 of them.

Townsend, the CEO of Loretto , needed to fill 100 certified nursing assistant jobs at Loretto’s Cottages in Cicero in a hurry.

“We had a staffing and recruiting crisis,” Townsend said.

With a workforce of 2,500 people, the health-care company knew how to recruit, screen applicants and fill jobs. But not that many jobs all at once.

Townsend wanted people who would be a good fit for the sometimes stressful and physically challenging job of nursing assistant. The low-skilled, relatively low-paying job has a high turnover rate. The price tag for Loretto to train the new workers was $180,000. They wanted to make sure workers stayed.

As the city of Syracuse struggles with poverty – nearly 50,000 people in the city are living at or below poverty – employers struggle to fill open positions. In March, the region had more than 5,000 open jobs.

The unemployed and employers have been struggling to fit together in this changing economy. The recruiting practices of entry-level and low-skilled employers sometimes miss the people who would eagerly take their jobs.

But even when the efforts do reach the job seekers, they often lack the right skills,

Enter Work Train, something of a matchmaker for employers and the unemployed.

Leaders from Loretto and Work Train put their heads together to think outside the lines. Where could they look for workers that they hadn’t been looking before? What barriers blocked people who might be good nursing assistants?

Work Train is part of CenterState CEO, a regional economic development agency. Over the past year, Work Train has recruited 130 employees. Of those, 113 have been placed in jobs. They helped fill all of Loretto’s openings, and are continuing to send employees their way, Townsend said.

Work Train started out in 2009 as a small operation aimed at working with St. Joseph’s Hospital Healthcare System to help refugees on Syracuse’s North Side find work. Since then, it has worked with 300 potential employees, placing 261 of them in jobs.”


To read the entire article, click here.

Troy Jackson’s Story: Syracuse.com’s “The Cost of Poverty” Series

Written by Mary Beth Schwartzwalder  • March 23, 2016


Photo credit: Dennis Nett

Syracuse.com’s series “The Cost of Poverty” examines poverty in our city from a variety of different lenses. Marnie Eisenstadt’s latest piece, “Power of training: Former cocaine dealer sees hope for a better life on a factory floor,” is the story of Troy Jackson, a student training for a machinist job in the manufacturing industry.

“Troy Jackson was released from prison a year ago after serving two years on a drug charge. That trip to prison was his fourth and, he vowed, his last.

“I want to make sure I provide a secure foundation for me and my family,” Jackson said. “That’s long due.”

Jackson, 38, was the baby in a family of 10 kids on Syracuse’s South Side. After getting out of prison this last time, he found construction work here and there, but nothing steady.

So when he heard about a free program at Onondaga Community College that trains people for machinist jobs paying between $11 and $20 an hour, Jackson thought, “Why not?”

The program, a joint venture between OCC and CenterState CEO‘s Work Train, teaches people to be machine operators in factories. The idea that manufacturing is dead is a myth: Factories have jobs they cannot fill because they can’t find people with the right skills.

And Jackson, who dropped out of high school but earned his GED in prison, sees the factory floor as a doorway to a better life for himself and his family.”

To read the entire article, click here. For a full list of articles in the poverty series, click here.

Work Train Student, Marshiela Radcliff, Shares her Story with Syracuse.com

Written by Mary Beth Schwartzwalder  • March 10, 2016


Photo credit: Dennis Nett

An article and video published as part of Marnie Eisenstadt‘s series for Syracuse.com, “The Cost of Poverty,” showcases the story of Marshiela Radcliff, a woman who was unemployed for 20 years and found a job at Loretto with the help of Work Train.

“A little more than a year ago, Marshiela Radcliff learned to drive. She opened her first bank account. She bought a used minivan.

One thing made all of the others possible: After spending 20 years on public assistance, Radcliff got her first paying job as a certified nursing assistant. At the age of 35, Radcliff earned her first paycheck.

‘All this stuff was at my fingertips?’ Radcliff said recently, sitting on a couch in the sparsely furnished home she shares with six of her children. ‘I didn’t know. I didn’t know I could work… I didn’t know I could do that.’

Radcliff was a stereotype: She is a single mother with seven children born in the span of a decade. She supported them collecting welfare for 20 years. She spent decades in a system where the message she said she heard was that she couldn’t work. . . .

‘I watched people get hired all around me,” Radcliff said. “I thought I’d never go anywhere.’

After a lifetime of believing she could not get a job, Radcliff’s world changed with a phone call. Her counselor at the work training program she had participated in on and off for 20 years called her about a new opportunity. The counselor’s message was four words: You. Can. Do. It.

Unlike before, the new program the counselor was sending Radcliff to offered a path around her missing GED. Instead of building general skills and working on resumes, the program was set up to train people to fill very specific job openings: certified nursing assistants for Loretto. And the GED problem wouldn’t be a deal-breaker for Radcliff if she could pass other tests.

Radcliff did. She was hired by Loretto in October 2014. There, she was trained to be a CNA while getting paid by Loretto.

Loretto partnered with Work Train, a nonprofit effort that works with both the unemployed and employers to fill open jobs. Work Train is run by CenterState CEO, but it relies on Onondaga Community College and a vast network of community nonprofits. It is funded with $1 million that has come from both the state and the community.

Loretto came to Work Train looking for help because it had more than 100 CNA jobs it couldn’t fill.

Work Train looked at Loretto’s requirements and then asked which ones truly mattered, said Dominic Robinson, who heads up the program. What were requirements that they weren’t screening for? Were there options to the GED for people like Radcliff and the hundreds of refugees in the community who have training from elsewhere?

Work Train and Loretto came up with a plan to find and train people who normally wouldn’t come across the healthcare company’s radar. And it succeeded. Work Train has ‘pre-trained’ more than 100 people for Loretto’s CNA program. There, it is solving Loretto’s workforce problem.”

To read the entire article, ‘I didn’t know I could work’: After a life on welfare, a job changed everything, click here. To learn more about Work Train, visit CenterState CEO’s website.


AmeriCorps VISTA Openings: Southwest Community Center

Written by Mary Beth Schwartzwalder  • January 12, 2016

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Syracuse Model Neighborhood Facility, Inc. (SMNF), the managing entity of the Southwest Community Center, is looking to fill a position through the AmeriCorps VISTA program. This individual will primarily assist SMNF in duties that include leading a community process to create a work-readiness program to help residents prepare for participation in Work Train, as well as conduct property assessments, assist with housing development activities, and support the development of the neighborhood’s fledgling business association. For all the details, view the posting here.

As part of their VISTA-ship, individuals will serve under the Community Prosperity Initiative and will work collaboratively with CenterState CEO and other VISTA sites, including Coopertaive Federal, the Near Westside Initiative, the Northeast Hawley Development Association, Inc., and Home HeadQuarters.

AmeriCorps VISTA Neighborhood Tours

Written by Mary Beth Schwartzwalder  • August 13, 2015

VISTA banner 1

On Monday, August 3, a group of four individuals, all with different backgrounds and interests, entered the CenterState CEO office to learn more about their new AmeriCorps VISTA positions and the neighborhoods where they will be working. For the next year, Kiva, Liz, Zach, and Camellia will help implement the Community Prosperity Initiative that seeks to more efficiently knit together community partnerships to achieve greater impact through workforce development, business development, and neighborhood revitalization throughout the City of Syracuse, and expects to benefit low-income, underserved community residents looking to improve their lives by participating in the economy.

Much of their first week was spent touring the Northside, Near West Side, and Southwest neighborhoods and getting acclimated to the projects and colleagues they’ll be working with during their time at four of our partner sites: Home HeadQuarters,the Near Westside InitiativeSyracuse Model Neighborhood Facility, Inc., and the Northeast Hawley Development Association, Inc. – NEHDA, Inc. Although the VISTAs will be based at different sites, their work will exist across neighborhoods, merging economic and community development with place.

Our aim is to create a relationship-based, action-oriented approach that can help our partners transfer hidden potential into opportunity and prosperity.

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To view a series of photos from the neighborhood tours, check out our Facebook album.

Thursday Morning Roundtable: Work Train Collaborative

Written by Mary Beth Schwartzwalder  • March 2, 2015

TMR Collage


We had a great time last week at the Thursday Morning Roundtable! Frank Lazarski (President of the United Way of Central New York), Meg O’Connell (Executive Director of The Allyn Foundation), and our Director, Dominic Robinson, presented on the Work Train Collaborative: Investing in Skills Training for Low-Income Syracuse Residents.

“There are hungry people in every part of this community for work … We cannot sustain our future if we can’t figure out how to engage them.”

To listen to the entire TMR discussion, click HERE.

Work Train Aims to Fill Jobs in Local Manufacturing

Written by Mary Beth Schwartzwalder  • November 17, 2014

This Work Train update was originally published in CenterState CEO’s November/December newsletter, CEO Essentials

CEO Newsletter

As of early October, there were more than 430 unfilled manufacturing-related jobs in Syracuse, Liverpool and East Syracuse alone, according to the New York State Department of Labor Job Bank. Many of these employers may pay above minimum wage, offer fringe benefit packages and support continuing education for employees in good standing. Some operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week to meet customers’ needs. Others face potential expansion but worry about not being able to fill orders if they cannot hire the right people in time.

At the same time, there are many un- or underemployed individuals in the community. Given the right training and support, these people could be excellent candidates for local employers seeking to fill jobs.

Enter Work Train—a CenterState CEO-led initiative that cultivates industry partnerships to create a pipeline of job applicants to fill positions that might otherwise go unfilled. Work Train works with businesses to identify and aggregate employer hiring needs. Once the skills have been documented, Work Train networks with community-based organizations and educational institutions to identify, recruit, assess, prepare and then refer potential job candidates for interviews with employers that have job openings.

Work Train is looking for manufacturing sector businesses that want to be part of this process. To learn more about participating, contact Rosemary Jonientz, Work Train assistant director, at rjonientz@centerstateceo.com or call 315-460-5507.

Work Train’s Roots: Work Train initially piloted this platform on the North Side of Syracuse with St. Joseph’s Hospital Health Center in health care and construction jobs. Work Train is now scaling up its efforts, most recently partnering with Loretto to hire certified nursing assistants for The Cottages in Cicero. Work Train is staffed by CenterState CEO and guided by a collaborative consisting of leaders from business, philanthropy, economic and workforce development, training and education, local government, and community-based organizations. 


Building Equity: Linking Economic Growth and Opportunity

Written by admin  • October 23, 2014

This Friday, CenterState CEO and the Urban Jobs Task Force (with funding from The Gifford Foundation) will co-host, “Building Equity: Linking Economic Growth and Opportunity.” This event offers our community an opportunity to address issues of economic inclusion and equity in Syracuse and learn from Cleveland, where business leaders, policy makers, and activists have developed a robust and intensive effort to make Cleveland a more inclusive and equitable community. The event is free, but reservations are recommended. Contact Ms. Liso Smith at (315) 416-363 or actsorganizer@gmail.com to secure your spot.