During a time of great economic turmoil about 82 years ago, North County San Diego’s first community college emerged. Founded during the Great Depression, MiraCosta Community College provided local students with the opportunity to earn a two-year college education. Today, the organization is making a tremendous impact on the local economy. According to their 2012 performance report, the local economic impact generates about $433.3 million each year, and students earn higher wages while businesses receive an increased output.
“Being able to keep in touch with what’s happening and changing in education and technology is really important for us,” says Linda Kurokawa, director of the Community Education and Workforce Development program. Always looking for ways to meet the needs of the community, the organization partners with local businesses to train future employees, resulting in new employment opportunities, higher business revenue, and increased employee earnings.
MiraCosta’s Community Education and Workforce Development program, located in the college’s Technology Career Institute (TCI) in Carlsbad, offers work-skill classes for any community member—traditional credit student or not—in categories ranging from health care and finance to dance and photography. Further supporting local economic development, the TCI offers accelerated, certified job-training programs for students to gain specialized trade skills. It is a self-funded, fee-based program.
Students earn certification in fields such as engineering technology, phlebotomy, veterinarian assistance, and high-threat security. More than 90 percent of TCI students are employed in their field, with about 98 percent of students finishing the program. The high retention rate is due, in part, to how quickly students can complete the program. They can fulfill the necessary 600 hours of training in just four months, compared to two years at other training programs. “We work with local businesses and high schools to identify areas that are needed for workers to enter the workforce, and also areas where students can earn a degree and get a local well-paying job,” says Cheryl Broom, director of Public & Governmental Relations, and Marketing & Communications.
MiraCosta’s Small Business Development Center (SBDC) assists local small businesses, providing free workshops on skills that include how to write a market plan and obtain a loan for expansion. From January to May this year, the SBDC provided 4,221 hours of business coaching and 270 workshops, resulting in 59 new business start-ups and increasing sales by $25 million. Additionally, the college’s job placement program provides students with a counselor to aid in their job search, to connect with students and provide assistance after graduation to ensure student success.
“MiraCosta played an important role in helping me transition from one developing career (Emergency Medical Services) to my goal career (health policy and government affairs),” says alumnus Aaron Byzak, director of Government and Community Affairs for UC San Diego Health. Byzak obtained an AA in history and credits the college with helping him tap into his academic potential. His studies helped him obtain an internship with a California state senator’s office. “That ended up being a key component in starting my career in policy and politics,” says Byzak.
Students also have the opportunity to impact the younger community through the Student Ambassador Program. About one-third of students from North County high schools go directly to this community college after graduation. “MiraCosta fed my intellectual curiosity and gave me opportunities to help my community. The values that I gained there are with me today,” says student ambassador Richard Huizar, a 2014 graduate who now studies mechanical engineering at MIT.
MiraCosta maintains a close connection to local businesses. Staff members meet regularly with industry leaders to discuss their business needs and ensure students’ skill sets meet their expectations. Built in close collaboration with local biotechnology companies, the college developed an innovative biotechnology facility. They recently obtained state approval to offer a bachelor’s degree in biomanufacturing, after local industry approached the college and expressed a need for degree-certified students in that area. Their hands-on nursing programs, in partnership with hospitals such as Scripps and Tri-City, enable students to complete required nursing hours in local hospitals. As Broom says, “Our goal is—if a student comes to MiraCosta and graduates—we want them to earn a degree that will help them stay in North County San Diego and get a well-paying job.”