Ready to take the next step in your career? Visit the career center closest to you. Learn more.

July 31, 2014

Dr. Sunita Cooke is the president of Grossmont College. She is also a member of SDWP’s Workforce Investment Board (WIB). Here we caught up with Dr. Cooke about what motivated her to join the WIB and what workforce issues she is most passionate about. 

SDWP: What motivated you to join the WIB?

Dr. Cooke: I have been involved in workforce development within community colleges for nearly 15 years. I did not initially sit on the Workforce Investment Board, but oversaw the Single Stop office that was housed on the Lone Star College System in Texas. The center supported students looking for workforce training and access to family-sustaining careers. In that capacity, we took in potential students, assessed them, found them a suitable training program for their career of choice, and helped them get registered and get started on their way to their new life. I also received local funding for a skills development grant in biotechnology. 

Currently, I represent all of the San Diego and Imperial Counties Community Colleges presidents and chancellors on the WIB. I have done that for approximately two years now and am the liaison with the State Chancellor’s office regarding economic and workforce development efforts at the regional and state level. This representation on the WIB and my liaison role present nice synergies to our region. The colleges are acting as a region in our “Doing What Matters for Jobs and the Economy” efforts and are partnering in new ways to support our community, our businesses and our region. We are working with SDWP on collaborations in labor market and gap analysis of workforce needs. We are also regionally seeking industry input for what gaps our employers see so that we can work together to address workforce gaps. It is a highly collaborative and unique regional approach that should help our region access and leverage our resources to maximize the impact to our employers and their future workforce. 

SDWP: What issues are you most passionate about as they relate to workforce development?

Dr. Cooke: I see the difference that cost-effective, high-quality programs have on the lives of individuals we touch and on their families for generations to come. The mission of the community college fits nicely with the WIB in that our goal is to take people from wherever they are and get them to a stable job. We want people to have continued opportunities for growth and for increasingly responsible jobs and greater wages as they move up the career ladder. These efforts have a lasting impact not just on the lives we touch, but on communities and regions. It can be very, very rewarding. 

SDWP: Tell a brief story about a person, event or project that you were involved with that underscored your passion for these issues. 

Dr. Cooke: We have a remarkable program at Grossmont College called Office Professional Training (OPT), which trains unskilled individuals (often in very difficult circumstances) to become self-sufficient. In one semester, they complete more than a full-time college student load and this is something they never, ever thought they could do! But because of the case manager/navigator support, the nurturing environment and the commitment to them as individuals and as a class, they graduate within a semester and they are job-ready, and soon after that, they are promotion-ready. This program has received support from the WIB in the past and is operated on private funds so that these amazing services are available at an extremely low cost to the trainees. It is the kind of program that literally changes lives and families. The successes of more than 2,000 graduates are really moving and motivating. The program recently received funding from the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) and is seeking students who are 50+ years young! We are also supported by the Walmart Foundation and have been supported by the San Diego Women’s Foundation in the past. It is the remarkable change that occurs in the confidence of these individuals over the short period of time that is so touching. At the end of the training, they believe they can achieve anything! 

Connect With Us
Stay in the know

The Workforce Partnership is dedicated to providing San Diego Residents with the most up-to-date resources for finding a career.

Subscribe to our newsletter.