Our Blog

Meet Mary Jane – Regional Director at the Workforce Development Institute (WDI)

Post: May. 21, 2019


Mary Jane is the Regional Director at the Workforce Development Institute (WDI) in the seven counties: Sullivan, Orange, Ulster, Dutchess, Columbia and Rockland. Her job is to work with partners in the region on expanding, promoting and retaining the workforce. Mary Jane works with non-profits, unions, businesses, government and education providers to identify regional workforce challenges and find solutions to those problems. WDI also gathers data on the jobs of tomorrow and uses that information to help prepare the future workforce and employers in an effort to keep those jobs in the region.

WDI is a statewide non-profit organization with a range of tools – including ground level information, workforce expertise, and funding – to facilitate projects that build skills and strengthen employers’ ability to hire and promote workers. This often fills gaps not covered by other organizations and is accomplished through partnerships and collaborations.

Mary Jane has helped countless organizations within the Hudson Valley region, including the Council of Industry. She played a big role in launching the Council of Industry’s NYS Registered Apprentice Program and maintaining its success. Every registered company is eligible for $2,000 per apprentice to offset the cost of running the program. Mary Jane helped to simplify the application process for this money by creating a “common app.” Participating companies are now only required to fill in a small section of information in a pre-populated application form, significantly reducing the amount of time and paperwork this process would typically demand. This has been a huge factor in motivating participating companies to apply for the grant. “The apprentice program model has proven itself to be the best way to prepare and train your upcoming workforce.” Said Mary Jane, “It’s important to expand and deepen these opportunities.”

The Council of Industry’s Apprentice Program officially reached over 60 Apprentices in April and continues to grow. The program is supporting apprentices all throughout the Hudson Valley region and on Long Island. Through a combination of on-the-job training and related instruction the program is designed to help improve and expand upon the apprentices’ overall understanding of the trade as well as the manufacturing industry overall. There are currently six registered trades: Machinist (CNC)Electro-Mechanical TechnicianMaintenance MechanicQuality Assurance AuditorToolmaker and Industrial Manufacturing Technician. Upon completion of the program apprentices receive a nationally recognized accreditation as a journey level worker.

Mary Jane has made a major impact on the manufacturing industry specifically. She’s done her part in helping to keep manufacturers from leaving the state when they outgrow their facilities, and helped companies “upscale” some of their employees with grants to pay for online training. Many companies can become intimidated by the thought of applying for grants. However, WDI has an interactive grant program that simplifies and streamlines the application process. Regional staff work with you directly to understand the issues at hand and then help develop a response. Once completed, turnaround is quick, allowing the entire process to move forward in a timely manner.

Mary Jane’s efforts have not gone unrecognized. WDI was honored last Friday, May 17th, at the 2019 Manufacturing Champions Award Breakfast. WDI was recognized as the organization champion for their work in identifying targeted strategies that address workforce development opportunities and challenges. WDI believes that a healthy manufacturing base is a key driver to grow the rest of the economy and they’re interested in seeing the new jobs of manufacturing – with solid wages and career trajectories – come to New York State. Mary Jane was unable to attend the event, but Sonja Brown, Regional Director in Westchester who has also worked closely with the Council of Industry and many of its members, was able to accept the award.

Mary Jane’s hard work and dedication has been a huge help to the Council of Industry and many of its members. She has been supportive in many other initiatives beyond just the apprentice program. If you’re interested in speaking with Mary Jane about how she can help you, you can contact her at mjbertram@wdiny.org If you’re located in Putnam or Westchester county you can reach Sonja Brown at sbrown@wdiny.org.