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San Diegans turning to community colleges for job skills help

With the pandemic shutting down industries and leaving many out of work, some San Diegans are turning to community colleges to sharpen their skills for new careers.

SAN DIEGO — Out of work but not out of options, event planner and single mom Billie Guinto always wanted to start her own business.

"I lost my job when the pandemic hit, and I had just signed up to go back to school full time. My son just turned 21 and moved out. I had this idea that I had no idea how to make it happen,” Guinto said.

Guinto signed up for the Regional Entrepreneurship Center at San Diego Miramar College, which is a lab that specializes in student startups.

"They gave me access to knowledge-based services so that I can develop a business plan and a marketing plan and get a management team,” Guinto said.

Dr. Stephanie Bulger, Vice Chancellor of Instructional Services for the San Diego Community College District said courses like psychology and sociology are booming. The district also offers classes in areas including fashion, information technology, hospitality, technical trades, and accounting.

“Most of us have six or seven careers in a lifetime, so this is probably part of the new normal of the way that we’re going to be living. So get started now. You can do it,” Dr. Bulger said.

The San Diego Community College District serves about 100,000 students a year with 700 career and transfer programs available ranging from a few weeks to several months.

“It’s $46 a unit, but that’s really for our colleges. But in continuing education, for many of those programs, it’s completely free to the public,” Dr. Bulger said.

Kris Saradpon was once a Culinary Arts student at Grossmont College.

"For culinary arts, it’s a really great life skill. Once you learn how to cook, you can’t take that away. It’s really fulfilling. You never go hungry,” said Saradpon, now a Culinary Arts Facilitator at Grossmont College.

The Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District provides hands-on training in Career Technical Education and Workforce courses.

“Come to Grossmont College. We have a lot of great programs. Even if culinary arts isn’t for you, we have administrative justice [courses], which have in-lab courses. We have a great nursing program. We have business administration,” Saradpon said

While most classes are still online due to the pandemic, student Billie Guinto created her own event planning app called “All Source Events” at Miramar College.

“I have never been a techie, but this has helped me get through the crisis and develop skills. I pitched my idea, which creates a marketplace for event planners as a one-stop-shop to streamline the coordination,” Guinto said.

Guinto is in a coding class and said the app is currently being developed by a coder and should be finished in a couple of months.

Grossmont College, the San Diego Workforce Partnership, and the San Diego East County Chamber of Commerce will host a free Career Expo on Wed. Oct. 28 at 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Students, alumni, job- and career- seekers can register at https://tinyurl.com/y6aolpnr. Employers can register at http://bit.ly/2EzutmM.