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Syracuse proposed as location for flagship workforce development network

Two men chat in front of a row of auditorium seats filled with people.
Scott Willis
OCC President Dr. Warren Hilton, left, chats with instructor Dan Mumford, right, as Centerstate CEO Surge Career Navigator Cainaan Webb stands in the background at a Syracuse Surge graduation ceremony Dec. 15, 2023.

Syracuse could soon be home to a flagship workforce development center proposed by Governor Kathy Hochul in her state of the state message.  Officials say it’s intended to connect existing educational, training, and community programs to meet current and future workforce needs. 

The center is expected to be one of a handful along the I-90 corridor, which was recently designated a federal Tech Hub. They’ll collectively be called the One Network for Regional Advanced Manufacturing Partnerships, or ON-RAMP. CenterState CEO will oversee the Syracuse location. Senior Vice President of Inclusive Growth Dominic Robinson says they’re trying to create a seamless front door where aspiring manufacturing and construction workers can access any number of programs.

“If you're a community resident and you're interested in these fields, you don't have to worry about which program is right for me," Robinson said. "You show up, there's a dedicated team there to help you assess the opportunities and pursue the right one. Then on the other side, the same thing is necessary for employers, right? A lot of employers don't know what program is best aligned with their needs.”

Robinson says for many, especially in communities of color, landing a high-paying union job that otherwise might be out of reach can change the trajectory of a family. He says about 40 percent of households in the area are led by adults who are working one or more jobs but can’t make ends meet.

“When you think about the jobs that are coming into our community, it's a real challenge to think, how are we going to fill those jobs?" Robinson said. "Unless we can tap into that 40 percent of households and say, 'wow, you already have great work ethic, you already have transferable skills'. How do we leverage that and and come up with ways to make these programs available and accessible.”

 Robinson says some just don’t have the network needed to get off what he calls the hamster wheel of working poverty.

 “The idea of creating a a really visible space with a lot of marketing and programming and wrap around services," Robinson said. "It's meant to kind of disrupt that dynamic and give people that access that otherwise doesn't feel like it's there.”

Robinson says it’s not clear yet from the governor’s office just how much the state might allocate for the ON-RAMP network, or when the sites will be created.

Scott Willis covers politics, local government, transportation, and arts and culture for WAER. He came to Syracuse from Detroit in 2001, where he began his career in radio as an intern and freelance reporter. Scott is honored and privileged to bring the day’s news and in-depth feature reporting to WAER’s dedicated and generous listeners. You can find him on twitter @swillisWAER and email him at