Lorain County Community College (LCCC) is recognized as a proven leader when it comes to launching innovative programs designed to pave ways for students to succeed in all walks of life. One of the college’s most popular options: Earn and Learn programs where students earn an income while attending classes and gaining valuable on-the-job training experience. 

“We’re very proud of Earn and Learn,” says LCCC program developer Hannah DiVencenzo, a member of
LCCC’s Business Growth Services Team, who helps spearhead Earn and Learn initiatives among local corporations. “We serve as ambassadors to make the community aware of what the college offers and discuss how it can meet specific needs.” 

University Hospitals (UH) took notice. To help develop creative solutions to allay the nursing shortage affecting patient care, the hospital system has partnered with the college to develop the UH/LCCC LPN Earn and Learn program. It allows current employees working at UHs on the West Side as patient care nursing assistants
(PCNAs) to earn their Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) credential while remaining full-time employees at UH. They receive full pay and benefits from their employer as they complete courses and training through LCCC. Upon successful completion of the program, they’ll have the opportunity to be hired as LPNs at the hospital. Currently, 16 students are enrolled in the yearlong pilot program, which began in August.

“We knew before COVID that the nursing shortage was coming, but because of the pandemic we’re at the place we expected to be four or five years from now,” says Tara Sostakowski, manager of nursing operations at University Hospitals Elyria Medical Center. “LCCC is very progressive. It’s been wonderful to work with them on this program that removes financial barriers, prioritizes schoolwork — and even builds in study time. [The team at UH] meets with the students once a week to make sure they’re doing OK and are on track. The program is designed to be very hands-on because we want students to be successful and ultimately add them to our workforce.”

Ashlee Pollock is one of those students. In April, she earned her state-tested nursing assistant (STNA) credential through LCCC’s tuition-free Fast Track program — which prepares students to acquire the skills they need for high-demand fields in 16 weeks or fewer — and the Elyria Skill City Promise program. Pollock began working as a PCNA at UH in July, and she was accepted into the UH/LCCC LPN Earn and Learn program.

“Everything with LCCC has been opportunity after opportunity,” she says. “This program is amazing. I can still work and get paid while I complete the next step in my education.”

And that, DiVencenzo attests, is as it should be.

“Students who attend a community college are usually in a different [situation] than those attending a four-year institution,” she says. “Most are combining working and coming to school. We’re trying to create the best overall scenario so our students can be successful at school and also still earn a paycheck. In this case, University Hospitals and our nursing department teamed up and said, ‘OK, let’s work together to make this happen efficiently for the students.’ 

“UH,” DiVencenzo adds, “has
been a terrific partner.”