Local Community Colleges Send Graduates into Top Jobs

Article excerpt

Byline: Michelle Martin Daily Herald Staff Writer

Lynne Lambert graduated from Oakton Community College last year and walked across the street, right into a job at Holy Family Medical Center in Des Plaines.

Lambert, 42, was one of many local community college graduates who, when it comes to the jobs available in the suburbs, are just what the doctor ordered.

The new crop of graduates heading out into the job market this year will find an economy that has jobs for people with the kind of skills community colleges teach, according to statistics.

And the statistics bear them out.

Five out of the 20 fastest-growing jobs in Illinois require either an associate's degree or a career certificate available from community colleges, according to a list compiled by a state agency.

Several are in health-care fields, but many are technical or service jobs.

More than 84 percent of Illinois community college graduates who were looking for jobs found them, according to the Illinois Community College Board, and those who worked full time had a median salary of $27,000 a year.

The jobs available to community college graduates may pay less than those that require more education, but they pay significantly more than jobs that don't require any more than a high school education.

Now, some students get better-paying jobs even before finishing a degree or certificate program at a community college.

"When I started here a few years ago, people working in heating and air conditioning or welding made very little money," said Terri Berryman, director of career and placement services at the College of Lake County. "Now after three or four classes, a welder can make $10 or $12 an hour. If they get really good at it, they can make a lot more."

Across the state, students in the dozens of vocational and occupational programs offered at community colleges make up about 37 percent of the enrollment across the state, according to the community college board. Students intending to transfer to four-year institutions make up about 42 percent.

"There's growing need for two-year trained candidates," said Chris Kranz, coordinator of placement services at Harper College in Palatine.

"There are electronics companies that have technicians doing a lot of work that engineers used to be doing."

Employers also know that most community college students, especially those who are adults, will make stable employees and are not interested in moving away, Kranz said.

In fact, more than 25 percent of Oakton's students already have bachelor's degrees, and many are already working in their chosen fields, said Ray Rolff of Oakton. …