No barriers to a new future with Northland’s job training program

Story originally ran on Thursday, April 14, 2022 in The Buffalo News

When Patricia Transue was in elementary school, she wanted to be an anesthesiologist. Her second-grade teacher reviewed careers related to medicine as part of the curriculum, and while Transue can’t recall what struck her about anesthesiology, it really appealed to her.

However, instability at home disrupted her plans and her path never materialized. Instead, she settled for a GED. Within a little more than a decade, she was ensnared in a battle with addiction. The irony of her initial inclination toward anesthesiology isn’t lost on her.

“It is kind of funny,” she says, laughing with a combination of self-deprecation and self-awareness. But any humor found in this bold parallel is buoyed by the fact that today, Transue, 35, is clean and working full-time as a skilled machinist at HDM Hydraulics with a degree from Alfred State College.

While in rehab, Transue was given a brochure promoting the program at Northland Workforce Training Center (NWTC). As a soon-to-be-released adult with a history of arrests and no job, Transue recalls the pamphlet offering what seemed like the perfect solution: getting paid while learning a trade and earning a degree.

Having never attended college before, she felt the barriers to entry loom large. From challenging prequalifying tests to complicated enrollment and financial aid qualification, the team at NWTC helped. They supported her through her initial tests to enter the program as well as completing the paperwork for aid and classes. They even gave her a bus pass to ensure she could get to and from school every day.

Transue was relieved and appreciative of the support but didn’t have a clear grasp of the training programs the school offered. She selected the path to becoming a machinist without understanding what the role required or what function it served.

“It was very impulsive of me,” Transue admits. “I’d never even seen a CNC machine before, and I definitely didn’t understand any of the math.”

But an Alfred State College math tutor and her assigned career coach helped Transue with her studies and with the steps required to plan her future.

“I was battling the fact that I hadn’t been in school and, unlike many of my classmates, I knew nothing about the kind of math you need for machining,” she recalls. “I was also battling just trying to stay clean. There were a lot of days I cried in the classroom. I was the only girl, but everyone was so kind to me. Eventually I figured it out.”

“Like Patty, all our students have a support team that consists of an admissions and financial aid coordinator, a career coach and a placement specialist,” says Stephen Tucker, the president and chief executive officer of Northland Workforce Training Center. “The team works in tandem with our educational partners to create a learning environment and support system that encourages camaraderie, teamwork and a family atmosphere.”

This kind of attention from the faculty, staff and students worked for Transue. A few months in, she was finding success. Her placement specialist helped her create a resume and land a job working for a steel company long before graduating. The salary, in conjunction with student aid, further stabilized her life.

“We are committed to the success of every individual who makes up our diverse student body,” says Tucker. “Our student-first culture meets individuals where they are and focuses on delivering a tailored experience that drives success.”

As the selected speaker at her commencement ceremony, Transue shared her story about how she came a long way from crying in class every day.

At HDM Hydraulics, she reads blueprints to machine complicated components within “a couple strands of hair” to support the making of hydraulic lifts. She finished school with her associate’s degree and will soon move in with her sister to help care for her nephews.