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Editorial: Northland offers stopgap solution to undereducated job seekers

Stephen Tucker, president and CEO of the Northland Workforce Training Center has come up with an innovative solution to a persistent and difficult problem among potential applicants: failure to qualify for admission to the school.

Many could not pass the literacy test for reading at the 10th-grade level. So, Tucker is hoping a new remedial reading program the center launched will help solve the problem.

The problem is significant. Out of approximately 800 students between the ages of 18 and 65 submitting applications, only 25 percent to 30 percent have been able to pass the Test for Adult Basic Education, even if they have a high school diploma or GED certificate.

This is not some arbitrary test that the training center has devised. It is a requirement imposed upon the new East Side facility by its manufacturing partners, according to Tucker, as reported in this newspaper, and necessary because of the fact that these potential new employees will be working on “mission-critical parts.” As Tucker explained to Buffalo Urban Development Corp. recently, “If a component fails, someone could be injured or die.”

Yet, many of these applicants are not ready.

Where to place the blame is a riddle. Is it the education system, poverty, environment or something else? Any and all of these factors could be to blame. Rather than merely, pointing fingers, Northland and Catholic Charities are combining to find a solution.

Catholic Charities is using space at Northland five days a week in the afternoons to provide tutoring.

Tucker has worked with a few individuals, and has admitted them to the school “based on their motivation and participation.” He makes clear that they also have to agree to take part in the remediation program while taking the regular classes.

The Northland Workforce Training Center represents opportunities in an area which has seen no such thing in a long time. Students successfully completing the program will be able to apply and likely get jobs in high demand fields that pay a good salary and possibly benefits. What it will mean for their children and their grandchildren could be significant and long-lasting.

At a time when there are so many available jobs in advanced manufacturing and businesses desperate for skilled workers, Tucker should be given credit for not giving up on those eager applicants. Help is also available from other agencies and the school district.

This is an important development for Buffalo, given the number of poorly educated applicants turning up at Northland. It’s no secret that too many high schools are graduating students who can’t perform at the next level. That has to be fixed.

In the meantime, this program plays an important stopgap role. The entire community has an interest in ensuring that people who are eager and willing to make a change are given the opportunity.

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