Grants For Workforce Development


Spectrum Designs and Nicholas Center hosts Lt. Governor for announcement on NYS workforce development initiative

From left: Patrick Bardsley, Co-Founder & CEO Spectrum Designs Fd., Nicole Sugrue, Co-Founder and Executive Director, The Nicholas Center, Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul, Co-Founder, Stella Spanakos, Spectrum Designs Fd. and The Nicholas Center. (Photo Credit: TJ Hart/Hartography Studios)

Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul announced the second round of the $175 million Workforce Development Initiative at Port Washington’s Spectrum Designs Foundation with partner, The Nicholas Center on July 28.

This second round of funding will make “$48 million available to support strategic regional efforts that help New Yorkers find quality, well-paid jobs and meet businesses’ short-term workforce needs, improve regional talent pipelines, enhance the flexibility and adaptability of local workforce entities, expand apprenticeships and address the long-term needs of growing industries,” a press release from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office stated.

New York State’s Workforce Development Initiative was inaugurated in 2019 with a mission to invest $175 million throughout New York State for innovative, creative, and regionally customized workforce development projects.

“Economic development isn’t about making the rich richer—it’s about ensuring everyone has the opportunity to get a piece of the pie,” Governor Andrew Cuomo said in a press release. “During a time when our economy has struggled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s even more critical that we build a skilled and capable workforce, and that’s exactly what this $175 million initiative does. The second round of the state’s Workforce Development Initiative will leverage our resources to educate and train New Yorkers to both support their families and succeed in their professional lives.”

This funding supports job training and employment opportunities in high-demand industries throughout New York State. This second round of funding will assist companies that have faced challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic and will create employment opportunities in high-demand industries for nearly 22,000 people throughout New York State.

“The economic impact of COVID-19 has completely upended the traditional workplace, and we are committed to helping New Yorkers get the skills and experience needed for the jobs of tomorrow,” Hochul said. “Our Workforce Development Initiative will continue to keep New Yorkers ahead of the job curve and create a more inclusive post-pandemic future where success is accessible to all.”

Lt. Governor Hochul tours Spectrum Designs Fd. and partner, The Nicholas Center to see workforce development in action for individuals with disabilities.

The awards will fall into one of three categories. The first category is public-private partnerships to advance 21st Century skills, which “seeks to expand the infrastructure and capacity of SUNY and CUNY to produce skilled talent that meets the needs of regional employers. These resources will provide funding for classroom space, technology and equipment and industry-engaged curriculum development.”

The second category is employer-driven skills so that training leads to quality jobs. These programs “expand employer investment in a skilled workforce pipeline. Resources will provide direct funding or tax credits to train incumbent workers and to recruit and train entry-level workers.”

The third category is workforce solutions that match business needs, which “provide flexible funding for innovative workforce development projects. Funds will support strategic regional efforts that meet businesses’ near-term workforce needs, address long-term industry needs, improve regional talent pipelines, enhance flexibility and adaptability of local workforce entities, and expand apprenticeships. The programs will focus on regionally significant industries in emerging fields with growing demands for jobs.”

“Workforce development is at the forefront of Governor Cuomo’s post-pandemic economic recovery plan,” New York State Department of Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon said. “The Workforce Development Initiative gives New Yorkers the opportunity to pursue their career dreams through education, training and skill enhancement while helping businesses secure a skilled workforce to accomplish their goals and stimulate economic growth. This incentive is oil to help rev New York’s economic engine.”

The first round of funding awarded 225 organizations with more than $70 million to help support economic security, including a number of Long Island organizations such as The Spectrum Designs Foundation, The Nicholas Center, Nassau Community College, Life’s WORC, United Way of Long Island, Stony Brook University and the Town of Hempstead Department of Occupational Resources, to name a few.

Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul, State Senator Kevin Thomas, Patrick Bardsley, Co-Founder & CEO Spectrum Designs Fd., Nicole Sugrue, Co-Founder and Executive Director, The Nicholas Center, Co-Founder, Stella Spanakos, Spectrum Designs Fd. & The Nicholas Center and others attended the press conference.

“Spectrum Designs Foundation and The Nicholas Center have benefited from workforce development funding,” Lee Anne Vetrone, Director of Development for The Nicholas Center, said.

Spectrum Designs Foundation, a custom apparel and promotional items social enterprise was awarded $200,000 which will be used to create vital job opportunities for young adults on the Autism Spectrum, including workforce development and occupational credentialing in entry and mid-level skill jobs, addressing the unemployment crisis after high school, providing on-the-job training and classroom instructions and work readiness and promoting industry specific credentials. Future funding will allow Spectrum Designs Foundation to offer work training for individuals on the Autism Spectrum, and the ability to offer employment to trainees upon program completion in: Screen-printing, Embroidery and Product Fulfillment, Laundering and Food Handling/Packaging.

The Nicholas Center was awarded more than $120,000 to recruit and train Direct Support Professionals—a dwindling occupation in short supply who support the needs of Autistic individuals. The Nicholas Center was able to hire ten new employees and upskill five existing professionals in two locations—Nassau and Westchester in science-based methods that lead to job promotion, higher wages and a nationally recognized credential as Registered Behavior Technicians.

“Both organizations are grateful to NY State and the Lt. Governor for their commitment to expanding opportunities for young adults on the Autism Spectrum, and for believing in our shared mission,” Vetrone said. “Additional funding from a new round of grants will enable The Nicholas Center to elevate an often-overlooked profession that is critical to support the needs of our most vulnerable.”

Applications for this initiative opened on Aug. 2. For more information about the Workforce Development Initiative, visit For more information about Spectrum Designs and The Nicholas Center visit and

—Additional information provided by Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office