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Speaking up for Adult Education: Champions for Sector Strategies and Career Pathways

by Kate Daly Rolander

How exactly can adult education strengthen the workforce development system? To help clarify just how foundational adult education services are to the development of a strong and adaptable workforce, six representatives from the field of adult education are participating as advocates for the field of adult education through their roles as Champions in the Sector Strategies and Career Pathways Academy (SSCPA).

The Career Pathways Work Group, a collaborative working group of representatives from Virginia’s workforce development agencies, have established a shared definition of career pathways and sector strategies as a means of following through on the state’s workforce mission to “drive Virginia’s economic growth by implementing an effective and efficient workforce system that delivers innovative, integrated, data-driven products and services that meet the needs of businesses and job seekers.”1  The SSCPA comes from this work. The overarching goal of the Academy is to “strengthen the ability of workforce system partners and practitioners to incorporate sector partnership and career pathway strategies thinking as integral components in every Virginia region.”2

The field of adult education is in a unique position to offer a deep and data driven understanding of what an integrated career pathways system can do for adult learners and of how adult education practices can lead to higher levels of retention, learning gains, and ultimately, gainful employment. This statewide initiative aims to bring together Virginia’s nine workforce development agencies and twenty-four workforce programs to develop a shared understanding and an integrated approach to planning and implementing sector strategies and career pathways across the state. The adult education champions will play a vital role in leading regional teams to springboard new initiatives and to support sector-and pathway-driven partnerships.

How SSCPA Champions fit into the SSCPA Structure

Sector strategies, sector partnerships, and career pathways are proven approaches for helping job seekers find middle-skilled jobs and for helping employers to find skilled workers. The SSCPA offers foundational skills and knowledge that will help our workforce professionals better serve job-seeking. It also offers opportunities for workforce teams to hone their skills with new practices and part-nerships. The Academy includes face-to-face and online content, culminating in regional peer workgroups who can use what they’ve learned throughout the Academy to imple-ment sector strategies, including career path-ways, that may then become promising prac-tices to share across regions.

1 Commonwealth of Virginia Combined State Plan, Publications and Initiatives, https://virginiacareerworks.com/ publications-initiatives/

2 Sector Strategies and Career Pathways Academy Foundations Training Presentation, November 2019

The Champions will be active participants in all phases of the Academy, including leading online discussion forums during the coursework, supporting the facilitation of the face-to-face Foundations course, and serving as leaders of regional peer workgroups to ensure adult education is included in important workforce development discussions and new collaborations.

SSCPA has developed a regional approach to delivering the Academy and for developing interagency peer workgroups. The six regions in this map are each represented by one Champion from adult education. Additionally, each adult education region is required to have a representative complete the SSCPA coursework.

Regions in VirginiaRegion 1 - Northern Virginia Region 2 - Eastern and Hampton Roads Region 3 - Shenandoah Valley and Charlottesville Region 4 - Richmond and Southside Region 5 - Roanoke Valley Region 6 - Southwest
The Virginia Sector Strategies and Career Pathways Academy

This table lists our six Academy Champions by adult education and SSCPA regions. Their roles in leading discussions and spearheading regional workgroups are essential in operationalizing sector strategies and career pathways models to collaboratively engage all workforce development agencies in the integration of services to best meet the regional needs of job seekers and employers. The Champions engage in additional training beyond the SSCPA curriculum and participate in regular calls to stay up to date with developments in the initiative and to prepare for implementing peer workgroups in their regions to tackle workforce development needs through an integrated approach that includes adult education services. The adult education representatives in our first cohort of champions represent a wide range of experiences in IET, partnerships, and program development for diverse student needs. Their perspectives will help shape the SSCPA initiative beyond the coursework and into practice.

Virginia’s adult education programs continue to develop and deliver innovative programming to expand education and occupational training access to increasingly diverse populations of Adult Learners.

IET Programs in Virginia

Sector strategies and career pathways are not new ideas in Virginia. Our PluggedInVA framework has run as a model career pathways program since 2009 and has sustained strong partnerships with training providers and workforce agencies in many of our regions. An increasing number of regions have partnered with the Virginia Employment Commissions Trade Assistance Act office to deliver just-in-time IET programs. (See the April 2019 PROGRESS issue for information on TAA Navigators who can work with adult education programs to implement TAA IET offerings.) Additionally, collaboration with the Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services (DARS) has resulted in innovative co-teaching IET programming and occupational training to serve adults with disabilities.

Virginia’s adult education programs continue to develop and deliver innovative programming to expand education and occupational training access to increasingly diverse populations of adult learners. This year, the Career, Technical, Agriculture Education (CTAE)

Virginia IET Blueprint
The Virginia IET Blueprint

Through integrated delivery systems with our workforce partners and local employers, adult education’s role in workforce development continues to expand. An important role of the Academy Champions is to sustain this momentum via this statewide initiative by communicating to our partners the expertise, the resourcefulness, and the readiness of adult education programs to strengthen workforce development systems through services that meet the unique needs of adult learners.

Virginia IET News and Resources

The goals of the SSCPA align closely with adult education’s goals for IET and partner collaboration, and throughout our regions, we have an abundance of examples and resources that point to our dedication to and readiness for sector strategies and career pathways thinking and program development. For more information on the SSCPA and to learn more about what has been happening in IET in Virginia:

For more information about the SSCPA Champions and new developments in sector strategies and career pathways, reach out to your regional champion or to Kate Rolander at the Virginia Adult Learning Resource Center at kedaly@vcu.edu.

Kate Daly Rolander

Dr. Kate Daly Rolander is the Workforce Education Specialist at the Virginia Adult Learning Resource Center (VALRC). She supports Virginia’s development and implementation of career pathways programs, assists instructors and staff in tailoring instruction for workforce readiness, and coordinates the state’s PluggedInVA programs.