top of page

Goodwill Awarded $250,000 for New Goodskills Career Builder Workforce Development Program

Empire State Development awarded a Western New York Workforce Development Challenge grant of $250,000 to Goodwill of Western New York to support the development and implementation of Goodskills Career Builder, a new workforce readiness program that fills in-demand jobs and will help promote diversity and equity in the workforce. The program, which will launch in fall of 2021, serves underemployed and unemployed workers in Western New York, will expand the pipeline of diverse talent for jobs in high-demand sectors and help to re-tool the regional workforce which has faced a high volume of job loss due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Goodskills Career Builder prepares participants for higher-wage jobs and career pathway opportunities in high-growth industries such as Advanced Manufacturing and Technology. Goodskills connects individuals with employment opportunities that maximize their talents. It helps them thrive through clearly defined career pathways and build wealth for themselves and their families. Goodskills helps breakdown barriers to employment and offers individually focused career counseling for three years along with job placement services.

“Goodwill is working to reimagine workforce development. We’re known for our successful retail stores, but Goodwill is much more than that. We’re developing innovative, individualized solutions that help people navigate their career journey and build generational wealth,” stated Thomas Ulbrich, Goodwill of WNY’s President & Chief Executive Officer. “We’re taking a comprehensive approach for workplace/career readiness training, coaching and support services. We want to really equip people with the skills employers look for today.”

“The Western New York Workforce Development Challenge is more important than ever as we work to grow a diverse and highly skilled talent pool that's needed to move the economy forward,” said Empire State Development Western New York Regional Director Amanda Mays. “With this Buffalo Billion grant, Goodwill will create job opportunities and help ensure the region’s workforce pipeline is responsive to industry needs – enabling a quicker rebuilding of the economy coming out of the pandemic.”

Built on socially innovative partnerships with business, industry and other workforce trainers, Goodskills uses a sector-based, dual-customer approach that bridges the gap between job seekers and employers. Training and services are targeted in high-demand, regionally significant sectors and provide businesses with skilled and qualified workers to help them grow and remain competitive.

Goodskills Career Builder is a rigorously evaluated industry-driven model, which leverages next and best practices in workforce development based on research and data. Goodwill partnered with the UB Regional Institute to build the comprehensive model which includes sector specific recruitment, career readiness training, an experiential work environment, support services, technical training, job training and placement and post-employment coaching for career advancement. All of these components are critical to an individual’s success, long-term increased wages and ability to build generational wealth.

Goodwill’s work is being driven by new leadership, with Ulbrich joining the organization as President & Chief Executive Officer in 2020. As an experienced entrepreneur, business executive and educator, Ulbrich is infusing a strong entrepreneurial spirit into the fabric of Goodwill. He held business and higher education leadership roles for more than 30 years, and still serves as executive in residence for entrepreneurship for the University at Buffalo School of Management. Previously, he was Assistant Dean for Entrepreneurship and Social Innovation with the School of Management and the School of Social Work at the State University at Buffalo. Ulbrich’s business and social innovative experience are helping to accelerate the growth of Goodwill and position it as a leader in workforce development as the region addresses the impacts of the pandemic.

For more information about the Goodskills Career Builder program, visit or email Randi Murphy, Vice President, Workforce Development at [email protected].

About the Western New York Workforce Development Challenge

The $11.5 million Workforce Development Challenge is designed to promote and invest in innovative approaches to workforce training for unemployed and underemployed populations throughout Western New York. The program, which awards funding to workforce development programs in the region’s target industry sectors - advanced manufacturing, health & life sciences, tourism, clean energy, tech and agriculture - helps increase the capacity of community-based trainers who have proven track records, trusted community relationships, and outstanding abilities for outreach and recruitment. In addition, it supports programs aligned with the industry sectors that are ripe for growth and have available in-demand jobs, that offer training for people who are unemployed and underemployed, as well as career ladder opportunities for entry-level and mid-skill workers. The WDC also funds best-practice models that maximize collaboration between businesses and workforce training programs. Originally a $10 million program, the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation announced an additional $1.5 million contribution in 2019 to the fund to build on the program's success. Through three rounds of funding, the WDC has awarded more than $5.6 million to 12 not-for-profit organizations in Western New York. Additional information can be found here.

About Today’s Goodwill

Goodwill of Western New York is striving to be a trusted workforce development leader in the region, recognized for embracing next and best practices. We’re applying creative and innovative approaches to establish high-performing programs. Data, best practices and trusted metrics drive our decisions to improve outcomes for those we serve. Flexibility is important to our organization as we continually adapt to the needs of Western New York residents and businesses.

A leading not-for-profit agency in Western New York with an operating budget of $11 million and 200+ employees, Goodwill of Western New York improves the lives of individuals and families by connecting people with quality employment so they can achieve economic stability and self-sustainability. They help individuals act upon their full potential by providing the right tools needed to build successful careers and make the most of their strengths. In doing so, Goodwill develops productive employees, helps businesses in the WNY community grow and helps position the region for success.

Goodwill is uniquely positioned to respond to the employment issues exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic with outreach, recruitment and training. 90% of low-income workers in the City of Buffalo who lost jobs due to COVID-19 live within five miles of Goodwill’s William Street location. And the opportunity at this point in time is extraordinary -- an $8.5 billion potential increase in collective wages over 40 years for people of color could be realized, generating economic impacts across all of WNY for years to come.


bottom of page