When a welfare advisor handed Melisa-Ann Mikasobe a brochure about Kapiʻolani Community College’s newly-established GoCook! Hawaiʻi Program, Mikasobe knew she had found just what she was looking for. A single mother from West Oʻahu, she had several years of experience in the food service industry but no formal training or certification.
“Food service has always been a passion of mine,” said Miksasobe, who had been struggling to make ends meet. “So when I heard about the GoCook! Hawaiʻi program, I knew I wanted to apply right away.”
The 12-week culinary training program is one of several programs supported by the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College to Career Training (TAACCCT) program at Kapiʻolani CC, and aims to prepare participants for high-skill, high-wage employment and a swift transition into the workforce, all at no cost to the student.
Getting kitchen ready
“The program focuses on getting them ‘kitchen ready’ in less than 3 months,” said Ron Takahashi, culinary department chair. “Classes are taught by professional culinary instructors in a hands-on, real work environment.”
Students are trained in a wide range of subjects including food safety, food service training and food innovation.
“It was really exciting getting that hands-on experience,” said Mikasobe. “One thing we learned was how to properly use different knives, how each knife is different and how to take care of them.”
Mikasobe was part of GoCook! Hawaiʻi’s first graduating cohort in December 2015. Just three days before graduation, she was invited to interview and later hired by one of the most well-established in-flight catering companies in the U.S.
“I’ve come to really succeed in my job by applying the skills I gained from the GoCook! program,” she said. “Being prompt, ready to learn and improve and having a passion for cooking, these attitudes have built my success that is still growing today.”
A lasting impact
“Since 2009, the TAACCCT grant has provided colleges, including Kapiʻolani Community College, with funds to expand and improve their education and career training programs,” said Stan Fichtman, Kapiʻolani CC’s TAACCCT grant manager.
“Through this multi-year grant from the the U.S. Department of Labor and a program developed by Kapiʻolani Community College, adults in our communities are learning new skills that lead to gainful employment,” added Fichtman.
Kapiʻolani CC’s TAACCCT program currently helps fund culinary, hospitality and health programs at the college. Students who complete the GoCook! Hawaii program receive the equivalency of 4 college credits, should they wish to enroll in a culinary program at a UH community college.
“If someone asked me about enrolling in the program, I would say just go for it!” said Mikasobe. “Even though there may be obstacles or hardships in life, you just have to make that change, make that effort and you can succeed.”
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