Entrepreneurs often remind young people that college isn’t for everyone and trade schools can offer a path to career success.
At Northland Workforce Training Center, students can take advantage of the best of both worlds.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo was in Buffalo last week to announce a partnership between the East Side training facility and SUNY Empire State College. Students enrolled at Northland will be able to take online courses through the college to earn a bachelor’s or master’s degree.
Empire State’s curriculum includes a program in which students accrue college credits based on their work and apprenticeship experience, a particular benefit to students from low-income circumstances who need to earn money while earning a degree.
The college’s pledge of $10 million to develop a five-year sustainability operating plan will contribute to the long-term sustainability of Northland, itself.
The president of Northland, Stephen Tucker, told The News that the center has enrolled about 275 students since its opening 14 months ago, 98% of them from low- to moderate-income backgrounds.
Northland, a $60 million facility built with funding from the state and federal governments, was created to help meet the labor needs of the manufacturing and energy sectors by providing training to young city residents who might otherwise fall behind in today’s economy.
The center offers degree programs for future welders, machinists technicians and others. The SUNY Empire State agreement means ambitious students can widen their career horizons by adding a college degree to their resumés, something that can produce tangible benefits.
The Federal Reserve Bank of New York released a study last summer that showed the average college graduate with only a bachelor’s degree earned $78,000, compared to $45,000 for those with only a high school diploma.
“Empire State College will work with anyone who walks in that door to reach whatever goal they want to reach,” Cuomo said.
Empire State will offer more than 800 online courses to students at Northland, according to James Malatras, the college’s president. The program includes additional financial assistance to help students with college-related expenses such as books.
Access to online courses will be particularly useful to students who have limited or no internet access at home. As more aspects of our lives migrate online, students need the skills to negotiate that world. That also applies to manufacturing, where computerized machinery is standard.
“If you can’t work that computer, you can’t do anything,” Cuomo said. “It is about the skills. It is about the education, and that’s what Northland is all about.”
The Empire State-Northland program will begin in fall 2020. Northland students should embrace the chance to take full advantage.