Low cost vocational programs popular

Tara Sim, Tara Sim, and Tara Sim


At what point in life do you know what you want to be – what career to choose, what professional journey to embark on?

From childhood dreams to adult aspirations, we go through life collecting numerous job titles. Whether it be waitress to lawyer to educator, by the time our lives end, we’ll have changed our career multiple times.

In this economy, how is it plausible that a person can switch or enhance their job title without suffering major economic loss? A change of profession doesn’t usually happen on whim, it involves education, time commitment, and money. But these factors shouldn’t stand in the way of goals, and City College’s Adult Education division is here to make sure they don’t.

With over 500 classes offered throughout the year, the program works hard to ensure accessible education to those who seek it. It is within vocational certificate programs, however, that the college seeks to provide not only quality education, but also the skill certification necessary to spur career developments.

“This is a great opportunity to create a secondary, or even a primary, career change without having to invest the time and the money that it normally would take,” said Jesse Aguilar, 51, a recent graduate of the Health Care Interpreter Training Program. “I think that’s where SBCC and the vocational program really have it up on everyone else.”

Aguilar, a native Santa Barbaran and former City College student, is among the 77 students that recently graduated from one of the four short-term vocational programs provided at the school for continuing education. The four courses – the Medical Assistant Training Program, the Personal Care Attendant Program, the Health Care Interpreter Training Program, and the Green Gardener Program – are all designed to help individuals meet the skill demand seen in today’s competitive job-market.

Sofia Rubalcava, a 28-year-old special education department translator for both the Santa Barbara and Ventura Unified School districts, liked to take classes through Adult Ed. for fun. After learning that the school offered courses in interpreting, she signed up for the Health Care Interpreter Training Program because she was interested in professional development.

“It has enhanced my knowledge and furthered my career,” said Rubalcava, who was hired right after graduating the program last December into a position that she heard about through the course.

Rubalcava credits her peers as being a contributing factor to the beneficial nature of the program.

“I got to meet other people who are interested in interpreting or who are working as interpreters, so it really helps with the networking aspect.”

Aguilar, who was also in the class, said two students were so taken with, and dedicated to the program that they would drive all the way from LA twice a week just to attend.

The students said that their instructor played a large role in making the class what it was.

“Denise [Filotas, Health Care Interpreter instructor] was exceptional. She was great about reaching out to people,” explained Aguilar. “More importantly than anything else for me was the type of environment she set. It was the kind that made you want to go back and actually study the lectures from before.”

Rubalcava also felt that Filotas was an essential aspect of the program.

“[Filotas] really shared with us all her experiences and all the things that she had gone through as an interpreter so that actually made me feel like someone understands me,” Rubalcava said.

The interpreting program wasn’t the only course with graduates singing the instructor’s praises.

Mike Kerrigan, a 38 year-old graduate from the Green Gardener Program and owner of local Kerrigan’s Gardening, found himself having extra confidence in his work after taking the course taught by instructor Oscar Carmona.

“He’s a really good teacher. He does a really good job explaining everything.”

Kerrigan and fellow graduate Nathan Avila, 38, encouraged each other to sign up for the program, and both received their certification in Sustainability Landscaping this December. Focused on environmentally friendly techniques, they took the course to reinvigorate and inspire themselves and to hone their understanding of what it means to be an environmentally friendly business.

“It’s all for the right way of doing gardening,” Kerrigan said. “I think [seeing] a lot of people going through that program and graduating is a benefit and I think that all of us gardeners should be practicing that.”

“It’s something that’s really important for the Earth,” agreed Avila, “I would recommend it to every gardener.”

Certainly with such highly praised instructors and lauded course material, one would expect that completing one of the vocational certificate programs would be costly and time consuming.

But graduates say: not at all.

“I was very surprised because the program was essentially free,” said Rubalcava.

The medical programs along with the Green Gardening Program offer free enrollment, only asking for a minimal fee of $15-35 to cover material cost. 

And what about the timing?

“It was the most accessible for me,” said Avila, referring to the time and location of his classes. “The way CC structured it made it so anyone could take the class.”

When jobs are hard to come by, programs like City College’s Continuing Education are highly sought after. For individuals seeking to be proactive about the longevity of their career, these programs have many who would praise them as excellent providers of help and support.

“It was more than just a class. It was more than just a program,” Aguilar said. “It was a life changing experience.”