Northland Workforce Training Center answers manufacturing’s call

This article was originally published in The Buffalo News by Matt Glynn on January 26, 2020

Just outside the classrooms at the Northland Workforce Training Center, job recruiters from Niagara Transformer Corp. in Cheektowaga were seated at a table, making their pitch.

New manufacturing workers are in great demand, and this is one place to find them.

One of the recruiters, Kelly Benzo, praised a Northland graduate now working as a tester at the company. She recalled when the same person was working at a supermarket’s deli counter. Niagara Transformer was hoping to find more success stories in the making.

“We are sorely lacking some of these vocations,” said Benzo, senior human resources manager. “That’s why we thought it would be a great fit to come and talk to Northland students.”

Stephen Tucker, president and CEO of the Northland Workforce Training Center, smiled as he took in the scene. For all of the thought, effort and investment poured into Northland’s training facilities, this is the outcome he has foremost in mind.

“Everything at Northland, we want it to lead to a job,” he said.

Manufacturers face a pressing challenge: A wave of experienced workers are nearing retirement, and too few candidates have the right skills ready to replace them. Unemployment – hovering around 4% – is low, and a generation of workers across Buffalo Niagara has been discouraged

from seeking careers in manufacturing, at a time when two of every five manufacturing jobs have vanished since 1990.

Factory employment has stabilized in recent years, but the exodus of older, experienced workers continues.

“We have a lot of people that are aging out,” Benzo said. “We need more young people.”

The question is, where to find them?

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