With Buffalo and Western New York trying to crawl back from a pandemic-related economic shutdown, the Northland Workforce Training Center is announcing new partnerships for its job training mission.
Historically, the center boasts 81 percent job placement in positions where graduates are earning average salaries of $36,000 annually.
But now there's a new challenge, chipping away at an unemployment rate in the city which rose up sharply during the COVID pandemic and its economic shutdowns.
"We've come through, literally, a horrific experience with this pandemic. Buffalo was able to brag about a four percent unemployment rate the last time we gathered here. We now have about a 14 percent unemployment rate," said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul during an appearance Tuesday. "That is startling, but we know how to get around around this. We've seen this before and we know how to come back. We know how to build back better."
The strategy to build back better within the Northland Workforce Training Center is to work with new partners who are providing economic coaching, job placement and training programs.
Northland president and chief executive officer Stephen Tucker explained one of those partnerships, with Local Initiatives Support Corporation, which is providing a $125,000 grant to set up a Financial Opportunity Center.
"FOCs provide financial coaching connections to income supports, as well as job placement assistance for residents seeking upward mobility, in an effort to accomplish self sufficiency," he said. "There are currently 87 FOCs across the country. And I'm excited that Northland will be the first FOC in West New York."
Other new partners include Remedy Intelligent Staffing, the Tobacco Free Coalition of Buffalo and Erie County, and Grand Island-based pharmaceutical manufacturer Fresenius Kabi, which employs about 900 people and is looking to grow further.
"We're the largest life science manufacturing company in Western New York area," said the company's Tony Pavell. "So to help us deliver on our strategy and meet the needs of our hospital customers, we are investing in improving our manufacturing technology. Over the last five years we've invested over $150 million in our manufacturing equipment, and today we're starting our investment into our employees. We have found that the northwind mechatronics certificate program meets our needs for developing these skills in our operators and mechanics."
Now in its third year, Northland enrolls nearly 300 students. Tucker says this includes 50 percent minority representation and 10 percent female representation. The current completion rate is about 60-percent. Tucker says that has been impacted somewhat by COVID, but the completion rate is double the national average.