Adopting a Common Language for Regional Economic Change

The Partners:

Central upstate New York businesses, unions, schools, government agencies, community colleges and Syracuse University

The Challenge:

Creating an employer-educator-labor partnership for long-term economic and community planning

The Solution:

A WorkKeys®-based plan to improve education, training and workforce quality


Between 1990 and 2000, central upstate New York experienced one of the greatest population declines in the nation. Much of its highly skilled workforce left the region to seek better employment opportunities. At the same time, more than 2,200 small technology-based companies in the area experienced rapid growth.

In February 2004, the Metropolitan Development Association—a nonprofit representative of the area's business leadership—launched the "Essential New York Initiative," a plan to transform the Central Upstate region to a knowledge-based economy. The plan details six master strategies, including creating, retaining and attracting talent to the central New York area.


To support local employers, the region must maximize the skills of the incumbent and emerging workforce.


The MDA called for a major expansion of the Central New York WorkKeys initiative, led by Syracuse University. The university created the "community adoption model" for integrating WorkKeys throughout the Central upstate New York community. The project is based on the premise that the more employers, educators and providers use the common language of WorkKeys, the better for the community.

Partner organizations, companies and schools are administered WorkKeys job profiling, assessment and training services. Syracuse University works with business and education partners to integrate WorkKeys into their existing business practices.


  • More than 6,200 employee and 6,000 student assessments have been administered since the program's 1998 inception.
  • More than 80 local companies have profiled jobs, used WorkKeys assessments and/or initiated WorkKeys-oriented training programs.
  • More than 1,000 at-risk students in CNY are participating in a Department of Labor-funded work-readiness project to help students develop comprehensive career plans.
  • Regional one-stop centers have integrated WorkKeys assessments/training into programs for job seekers.
  • The WorkKeys Value-Added Reseller has transitioned from a 100 percent grant-funded pilot into a self-sustaining operation.


"The region's leadership must take steps to ensure that all employers and schools have access to these powerful recruitment, training and placement tools." Excerpt from the "Essential New York Initiative" – February 2004