New tech training program seeks Western New York applicants impacted by pandemic

Dec 21, 2020

A new training program called the WNY Tech Skills Initiative is looking for area residents interested in boosting their digital skills—especially those who lost jobs or work hours due to the coronavirus pandemic.


The initiative is the result of a coalition between M&T Bank and other area partners, including Empire State Development and the City of Buffalo, and an effort to help both individuals and the Western New York region recover from the pandemic’s negative financial impact.

“If you think about the economy and tech, the skills needed for a workforce to be successful are changing so quickly, and this was one opportunity to provide free access to some of those skills,” said Sarah Tanbakuchi, senior technology manager at M&T Bank. “Secondly, it’s really an opportunity to play a part in helping to build an inclusive workforce.”

Virtual training will be provided free of cost for up to 3,000 Western New Yorkers, with priority enrollment for women, people of color and veterans, as well as workers impacted by the pandemic. Subjects of instruction will include data analysis, digital marketing, software engineering and more—and you don’t need much of a tech background to apply.

“All it takes is curiosity and some basic computer proficiency, being able to navigate a web browser [and] email,” said Aida Holson of General Assembly, the company that will be providing instruction. “Our role is to provide courses that are free to access, easy to access and also enable learning to a large number of individuals that don’t necessarily have any digital skills.”

Asked whether participation in the WNY Tech Skills Initiative would lead directly to new job opportunities at local companies, Tanbakuchi said the training offered will help make workers more marketable in a modern economy. She also said the coalition partners are committed to organizing opportunities like virtual job fairs for participants.

“We know that there are a number of companies right now that are going through their own digital revolution or digital transformation, M&T included,” Tanbakuchi said, “and it’s really important for us to recognize that the rest of the Western New York community is part of this digital transformation.”

Enrollment for the first, self-led phase of the WNY Tech Skills Initiative opened last Wednesday. As of Friday, Holson said 50 area residents had already enrolled.

Individuals interested in learning more about the program can text “SKILLS” to 716-710-6901.