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San Diego Continuing Education

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Community Weighs in on Future of Adult Education

San Diego Continuing Education includes Community in Strategic Planning Efforts

SAN DIEGO—More than 60 business and community leaders joined San Diego Continuing Education (SDCE) faculty and administrators at SDCE’s Cesar E. Chavez Campus in Barrio Logan on Friday afternoon for an important strategic planning meeting to talk about the future of adult education in San Diego.

Representatives from community service, advocacy groups and community development joined business leaders from health care facilities, manufacturing companies and educational organizations. More than 15 companies participated, including: The San Diego Council on Literacy, San Diego State University, San Diego Public Library, Ryan Bros. Coffee, San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, Urban Corps, CP Kelco and Heritage Senior Care, Inc.

Today was a great day in the future of San Diego Continuing Education,” said Carlos O. Turner Cortez, Ph.D., President of SDCE. “Our institution benefits from the expertise and collaboration we have in our community partners and when our institution benefits, our students benefit.”

The organized brainstorming included identifying unmet educational needs and innovative ways to deliver instruction. One idea was to consider SDCE campuses as community hubs that could potentially provide resources to students beyond education. “It still takes a village,” said Jose Cruz, Chief Executive Officer of the San Diego Council on Literacy. “Especially in inner-city communities where there are not enough role models for students, and where we are still overcoming cycles of illiteracy, dysfunction and dependency.”

Targeting professional students through apprenticeships and considering nontraditional methods of delivering instruction were among dozens of ideas that were presented following a brainstorming session where people broke into small groups of 8-10. Apprenticeships provide hands-on learning, often essential to skilled trade industries. Due to a recent $500,000 grant awarded to the San Diego Community College District, SDCE has already planned to develop noncredit course curriculum geared toward preparation for careers in the trades and technology to address skill gaps for students who plan to pursue apprenticeships to become carpenters, plumbers, HVAC technicians, welding or sheet metal workers.

“One of the best ways to keep a pulse on what the community needs in terms of job training, is to keep community leaders engaged in a conversation about current and future needs,” said Michelle Fischthal, Dean of Institutional Effectiveness at SDCE. “As SDCE prepares short- and long-term planning goals, community collaboration is critical to our decision-making process.”

"What I liked most was that most everyone was interested in a mutual desire to make education meet the real world through increased collaboration and outreach," said Tom Ryan of Ryan Bros. Coffee, a local and long-standing business in the Barrio Logan community where SDCE's newest campus serves students. "The conversation ultimately lead to a deeper desire to have education and educators work toward an offering that centered around a global perspective; a continued education that fosters communication and problem solving skills."

As the largest and oldest noncredit adult education provider in San Diego, SDCE is committed to maintain future programming that matches the educational needs of San Diegans.

“Back in the early days of our organization, we offered classes about how to raise chickens or find seasonal work as a gift-wrapper or type-setter,” said Esther Matthew, Acting Vice President of Instruction for SDCE. “Today we offer certificates in Networking and Security and Small Business Management.”

For just over 100 years, SDCE has provided free adult education in San Diego. The community needs have been consistent in some areas such as Citizenship and high school diploma completion programs, but has seen significant changes in short-term skills training students complete to compete for in-demand jobs. “When traditional teaching methods don’t work, we need to be open to change what we’re doing,” said Dean Jane Signaigo-Cox, Dean of Career Technical Education at SDCE. Changes could include integrating basic skills and technology into targeted instruction to keep up with the changing occupational demands of industry. It could also mean expanding community to beyond where people reside. Online instruction and classes opens the door to be able to reach beyond local residents.

“Convening the partners the way we did today helped clear the pathway so that more students in the community meet their goals and reach their personal and professional destinations,” said Cruz.

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San Diego Continuing Education (SDCE) is the adult education division of the San Diego Community College Distirct. SDCE was one of the first continuing education institutions in California to meet the standards for independent accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. More than 40,000 students are served per academic year at six campuses in San Diego. Noncredit classes are available at no cost, including online options.

Short-term certificate programs are offered for numerous industries including: Automotive Technician, Child Development, Culinary Arts, Nursing Assistant training, Professional Bakeshop Skills, and Plumbing. Classes are free because San Diego Continuing Education is part of the California system of higher education. Funding also comes through business and industry partnerships. Learn more at