Here’s how the Willoughby-Eastlake Schools system is helping students get training and education without college

Willoughby Feb

By Patricia Nugent

Whether you are a high school junior or senior seeking a career path other than four-year college, or an adult looking to begin or change career paths, Willoughby-Eastlake Schools’ Northern Career Institute (NCI) offers a variety of programs that lead to promising careers from in-demand arenas, with jobs waiting for you upon graduation.

Spread over two campuses in Eastlake and Willoughby, the programs collaborate with local businesses and industries to provide hands-on educational experiences.

“Over the past several years, people’s view of career technical education has shifted,” says Lori Klonowski, director of adult programming at NCI. “The attitude now is an appreciation that there are high-paying jobs in our area that do not require a four-year degree.”

She notes that the cost of college is astronomical, as is the rising amount of student debt, so a viable and affordable career path is attractive to today’s students. They don’t want to be “underemployed,” with an expensive degree working as a barista at a coffee house.

Lori explains that NCI’s programs meet the education, training and employment-related needs of area professions, including programs for allied health, auto collision, automotive technology, business, cosmetology, LPNs, medical assisting and welding.

“One of the fastest growing areas in Cleveland for jobs is healthcare and our challenge is to keep up with it,” she says. “For instance, our nursing program has gone from 25 adults in 1962 to more than 130.”

She explains that one of the newest programs, Medical Assisting and Medical Billing and Coding Specialist, is the perfect fit for those who might be interested in healthcare, but don’t wish to be hands-on with patients.

“We did our research and there’s a high demand for these jobs,” she says. “We looked right up the street, where Lake Health had a dozen vacancies for billing and coding specialists. Now we are able to help fill these jobs.”

There are so many examples of how NCI students partner with the local community through real-life experiences. Lori explains a few: welding students worked with the City of Eastlake to fabricate a skate park; and auto collision students collaborated with the cities of Willoughby and Eastlake to convert an ambulance into a SWAT vehicle.

Look for these monthly stories to cover topics from grades k-12 in the Willoughby-Eastlake City Schools System. For details, visit