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Career Collegiate Institute provides a path to success for city students who left high school

Educational success is not always found on a traditional track that follows a straight line from high school to college to career. And that’s OK, because not all jobs demand post-secondary education. Those with technical or vocational training can do just fine.

A recent story in The News focused on nontraditional students who need another path to success and found it through the Career Collegiate Institute, the youth program of the Buffalo Public Schools’ Adult Education Division. Students who have matriculated through the institute at 756 St. Lawrence Ave. in North Buffalo may very well pick up the vocational skills currently in demand.

SolarCity has announced the search for production workers for its factory being built in South Buffalo. Workers will be in demand at the RiverBend factory, with most of the 1,460 positions expected to be production jobs.

Entry-level positions will start in the low- to mid-$30,000 levels … not bad starting pay around here. From there pay heads up, with more-skilled production workers having the chance to earn somewhere in the mid-$60,000 range. And workers in tooling engineering could be paid more than $100,000. “They’re just so hard to find,” said Daniel Harvey, the SolarCity executive in Buffalo whose job it is to build the local workforce.

The company has 13 human resources and engineering employees each in the area. They are expected to hire about 100 production workers by the end of March, with the company’s workforce topping 500 by the end of next year.

While the area’s jobless rate is falling, the company should not be at a loss for applicants. But those looking for jobs at SolarCity, the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, IBM and many other growing operations will have to make sure that they are qualified.

An obvious way of getting to that point is the linear track through high school and on to college. Problem is, life often gets in the way.

News staff reporter Deidre Williams highlighted the difference the Career Collegiate Institute has made for students who were once on the educational fringe. CCI’s graduation rate was 69 percent last year and 68 percent in 2013. The school district’s graduation rate hovers at only around 50 percent.

Graduates of the program could be a match for employers offering work in technical areas. The institute and community colleges offer the training and certification to get people working, whether at SolarCity or one of a number of advanced manufacturing hubs.

Educational success can be built one skill set at a time.