How Long-Term Systems Thinking Is Helping to Spark Vitality in Syracuse

Spring and summer mean things are buzzing with excitement and renewed energy all around us — and that’s certainly the case throughout the National Fund network! Recently, I joined National Fund board members and staff in Syracuse to visit the Work Train collaborative and get a sneak peek of what’s in store for the community in the coming years.

Strategically housed within CenterState Center for Economic Opportunity, the Syracuse area’s regional chamber of commerce, Work Train convenes partnerships between employers, educators, funders and community partners to develop lasting workforce solutions.

During our visit, we got to hear more about how their collective efforts helped to induce Micron Technology to choose the central New York region as the site for its new $100 billion (yes, that’s billion with a “B”) mega-complex microchip factory. This would be the largest single private investment in state history and is certainly a win for both the regional and state economy — especially considering the thousands of jobs the deal brings with it.

Transformational things are happening because WorkTrain and CenterState CEO were ready to move quickly and respond when the Micron opportunity materialized. Their readiness to meet the moment is a testament to how taking a long view and building strong relationships over time can lead to outsized results. It also highlights the effectiveness of the National Fund’s strategy in building a network of regional workforce collaboratives who work locally as the catalysts and conveners that make sure the right people are at the table at the right time.


“The National Fund is critical to our work at CenterState CEO and in the community. The systems change grant we received (in 2018) was the most important grant we’ve received, not because it was a lot of money, but because it allowed us to do the thinking we so desperately needed to do.” – Dominic Robinson, Senior VP of Inclusive Growth, CenterState CEO

The next step is to ensure they are ready to meet the next moment. Micron will begin hiring staff in 2026. More than 14,000 jobs are on the table — 5,000 construction jobs to build the facility and 9,000 jobs in the Micron factory itself. One of the big challenges is to ensure this new workforce is not only well-trained, but also that workers of color have equitable opportunity to land the new jobs flooding into their community.

These are the kinds of big issues that need to be addressed through a systems thinking lens and National Fund collaboratives like WorkTrain are poised to lead that work. A big thank you to our hosts, Aimee Durfee and Dominic Robinson at CenterState CEO. I’m so glad we had the opportunity to get an up close and personal understanding of the local impact of the National Fund’s approach to workforce development.


Amanda Cage

-- president and CEO, National Fund for Workforce Solutions