How 20-year-olds are making $60K+ after community college program

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Posted at 9:09 AM, Oct 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-30 08:12:07-05

ELYRIA, Ohio — With our Help Wanted Ohio series, News 5 is committed to identifying employment issues in Northeast Ohio and finding solutions.

One of our big challenges is the talent pipeline or making sure people are properly trained to fill our region's in-demand jobs.

Community colleges are proving to be nimble in responding to meet this growing need.

"It's got a lot of demand," said Devin Filak. "So, you don't have to worry about job security too much."

Filak graduates this fall from Lorain County Community College with an associate’s degree in cyber and information security. It is one of the most in-demand jobs in the Buckeye State, according to the Governor's Office of Workforce Transformation.

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Devin Filak.

Filak says his degree will cost him about $9,000 and is anticipating a salary of somewhere in the neighborhood of $60-$85,000 per year.

Filak is 20 years old. The median amount Americans age 20 to 24 are making is about $30,000 a year, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Filak says he has no second thoughts about his time at LCCC or the degree he's pursued.

"Absolutely not," he smiled.

A growing number of Ohioans are turning to the state's 23 community colleges. Data from the Ohio Department of Higher Education shows enrollment in community colleges increased from 2016 to 2020 and declined in Ohio’s 14 university main campuses.

"You have hundreds of thousands of jobs out there and there's not enough people going into the pipeline," said Larry Atkinson, professor of the cyber and information security program at LCCC. "That's why we've developed these specialized programs, working with these companies, because there's a definitive need and we feel that the community college is specifically positioned to meet the needs of the industry at a local and national level."

Cyber and information security is one of four Earn and Learn degrees at LCCC. It is a program for students pursuing careers in Northeast Ohio’s key industries: Information technology, advanced manufacturing, and health care. They work directly for companies, earn a paycheck and learn in-demand skills.

Atkinson says this symbiotic relationship between the college and companies is a solution to the talent pipeline issues that plague our region.

"Definitely," said Atkinson.

The president of Lorain County Community College says their mission has never been more focused: Providing a skilled labor force for employers and moving individuals up the socioeconomic ladder.

Over the past year, with the help of federal stimulus dollars, LCCC has launched more than 30 fast-track programs that are offered free of charge.

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Devin Filak walks with Professor Atkinson.

"Because we know that when you're dealing with so many uncertainties to think about two years is just way too long, it's overwhelming, but get me to that 16-week mark and I walk out with an industry-recognized credential and I’m immediately hirable, and I can decide to come back for a one-year certification and that one-year certification also ladders up to an associate’s degree, I can do that," described Doctor Marcia Ballinger, LCCC president. "We've had phenomenal success with that."

Lorain County Community College is also preparing to launch its second bachelor’s program. This one is in robotics.

Data shows by 2025, 65% of jobs in Ohio will require some post-secondary credential. And for people like Filak, they say the community college has provided them an affordable, accessible and relevant pathway to success.

"It is quite frankly just a blessing," he said.

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