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Guest Blog By Tara Schafer, Literacy New York Buffalo-Niagara


Back in January, the Buffalo News ran a few articles highlighting this very issue. A long awaited, much anticipated training academy had opened in the city, promising high paying jobs at the conclusion of a relatively brief training course. To the surprise of many--not us, though--about 70% of those trying to gain admission could not pass the entrance test which requires 10th grade reading and math levels.

From a Buffalo News editorial published this week: "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 Stephen Tucker president and CEO of the Northland Workforce Training Center, 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 recently, 'If a component fails, someone could be injured or die."

The article continues on to state that the Northland Workforce Training Center has addressed the problem by working with a local nonprofit--Catholic Charities--to provide daily classes. Literacy New York Buffalo-Niagara will help by offering tutors to anyone who wants to work on a one on one basis.

With awareness of the issue of adult literacy and its relationship to workforce development finally coming into the public arena, we are seizing the opportunity to push for greater funding for our vital services. Now that stakeholders and decision makers understand that our region suffers from low literacy levels that impact future growth, we hope that they will give us the attention, the investment and the respect that we deserve.