Willoughby-Eastlake Schools’ technology program is booming


By Patricia Nugent

If the many industries and businesses that were forced to pivot last year to stay viable during the pandemic, education was hit especially hard.

And when it came to the hands-on, in-person protocols of career tech education, the switch to remote learning was especially detrimental.

But the leaders at Willoughby-Eastlake City Schools’ Northern Career Institute (NCI) did not let the closing of classrooms derail their programs.

“Last spring, when our students could not be on campus, we were thrown for a loop, so we decided to expand our internship offerings out in the field so they could still get the necessary training in their programs,” says NCI Administrator Deanna D’Amore Elsing. “And the good news about their experience—paid internships with companies eager to hire them for careers in June after graduation—spread quickly from last year’s seniors to this year’s students. Our number of students has doubled. Now we are working with 135 juniors and 135 seniors.”

She notes that businesses are in great need of trained employees, and that she receives about five calls a week looking for students.

Two of the most popular programs at NCI are Welding and Auto Collision.

“As an example of what’s happening, one of our students, DeShawn George (pictured above), has been working alongside other welders with 20-plus years’ experience at Swagelok in Solon since January. Not only have they promised to hire him on June 1 when he graduates, but they are also granting him a year’s worth of experience, vesting him in a 401K, and offering tuition reimbursement for additional schooling. What a success story.”

Working with managers at each internship company, instructors prepare employability checklists for the students.

Other programs with paid internships include Cosmetology and the Business Academy.

“I was born and raised in Lake County and still believe this is a great place to live and work,” she adds. “I’m incredibly proud of these local businesses that have rallied around our career tech education. And I’m impressed every single day by our students and instructors, who are growing through these real-world experiences.”

Look for these monthly stories to cover topics from grades k-12 in the Willoughby-Eastlake City Schools System. Find out more at WESchools.org.