Dr. Tina King with students
Dr. Tina M. King with certified nurse assistant Students at San Diego College of Continuing Education in Barrio Logan.

One of the best kept secrets in San Diego can be found in Barrio Logan, Point Loma, Southeastern San Diego and four other locations.

The secret is the San Diego County College of Continuing Education, California’s largest provider of continuing education. Students are learning to weld military ships, training for six-figure cyber security-careers, becoming licensed in critical healthcare professions and pursuing dozens of other programs..

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San Diego is facing tragic increases in homelessness because many people do not have the skills to support themselves. Without the necessary qualifications, it is nearly impossible to achieve upward mobility.

The answer to this is high-quality, short-term programs of all kinds, from web development to culinary arts, from programming with python to HVAC and dozens more, available to all students at no cost to them. Additional free classes include high school diploma equivalency, English as a second language, and citizenship.

Seventy certificate programs at the College of Continuing Education are specifically developed for adult students who are low-income, veterans, first-generation, immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers. Students of all ages and backgrounds enroll in automotive, business, accounting, child development, clothing and textiles, digital media and programming, healthcare, hospitality, information technology, and other skilled and technical trades.

The College of Continuing Education has existed for more than one hundred years yet is often unknown. Most students learn about the opportunity through word of mouth.

Classes are at no cost to the students as the college is one of the 116 within the California Community Colleges system. Funding also comes through business and industry partnerships.

Although these high-quality classes are provided at no cost, the college understands that today too many students face basic needs barriers which prevent them from being successful in the classroom and at home.

Once enrolled, students have access to SDCCE CARES — short for commitment to accessible resources for educational support — a comprehensive basic needs program designed to help students meet fundamental needs of food, housing, transportation, childcare, and mental wellness. Students are connected to accessible and timely resources to support them while completing their educational goals.

Following the COVID-19 recession, and with attrition rates rising across many industries, San Diego businesses are eager to hire skilled professionals as soon as possible. At the College of Continuing Education, classrooms mirror industries to look like an auto shop, welding yard, industrial kitchen, or a hospital for a hands-on learning experience.

Students also work in clinicals, pre-apprenticeships, and internships. After certification completion, which takes only four to eight months, students are ready for employment or transition to college for further training.

Many middle-skills jobs require more education or training than a high school diploma but less than a four-year college degree. According to the Centers of Excellence for Labor Market Research, 39% of the 1.7 million jobs jobs in San Diego and Imperial Counties in 2020 were middle-skill.

Opening the door to the best kept secret has helped launch the careers of Raven Antiquiera, Sarah Ramos and Eric Burke — to name just three of the 30,000 students the College of Continuing Education serves annually. That number includes many disenfranchised young adults returning to college after some absence from education and foreign-born professionals who, despite earning their doctoral credentials, have to start over in a new country.

  • Antiquiera, a first-generation Filipino American student, achieved a director-level position at a major information technology firm in San Diego after earning a desktop technician certificate from the College of Continuing Education.
  • Ramos worked in human resources for two decades before enrolling in the culinary arts certificate program and is now a pastry chef de partie for San Diego’s 3 Michelin Star fine-dining restaurant, Addison.
  • Burke completed the nursing assistant certificate program paired with clinical hours and landed a job at a Sharp hospital — a role that traditionally requires 1-5 years of experience.

These graduates have a big impact on San Diego’s economy. Graduates of career technical education programs like Antiquiera, Ramos and Burke generate nearly a quarter of a billion dollars in new income every year.

So continuing education has a positive impact on the business community and creates a return on investment for its major stakeholder groups— students, taxpayers, and society.

Let the best kept secret be secret no more. The public is heartily invited to enroll in our classes.

Dr. Tina M. King is president of San Diego College of Continuing Education.