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A Career Pathway for Adult Educators

by Marjorie Lampkin

We all talk about and emphasize career pathways for our adult learners, but what about for ourselves? Do you aspire to move toward leadership in your adult ed program? Have you ever considered what that pathway might look like?

In 2000, I entered the world of adult education as a part-time instructor for the Northern Neck Adult Education Program. Career pathways was not a buzzword at the time, but unbeknownst to me, I was stepping onto my adult education career pathway. Twenty years later, I find myself in the position of leading the adult education/workforce development initiative in the Northern Neck at Rappahannock Community College, where I serve as the coordinator for the Office of Career and Transition Services. And, yes, that includes serving as the program manager for adult education. Taking advantage of training and growth opportunities that presented along the way allowed for progression along a career pathway in adult education and leadership.

If you are looking to advance on your adult education career pathway and enhance your leadership opportunities, you may want to focus on the following.

Seek out formal education opportunities.

Explore the many certification and degree programs in the field of adult education. The Adult Education Certification program through Virginia Commonwealth University was instrumental for me in gaining knowledge of the theories and principles that drive adult education programming. This certification allowed the addition of an adult education endorsement to my teaching license.

Take advantage of informal education and training opportunities.

Join professional organizations and take advantage of the many trainings that they offer. Some suggestions are LINCS, VAACE, COABE, NAWDP, and Workforce GPS.  Attend the conferences made available through VDOE, VALRC, and VCCS. Stay up-to-date on the most current resources available through the VALRC website. (As an added bonus, these trainings can be used to renew your teaching license.)

Participate in as many local organizations and boards as possible.

Staying connected to your community is essential to being a successful leader. Staying connected allows you to gather resources for your adult ed students, as well as share the benefits of your programs throughout the community. Several suggested organizations and boards include the local Workforce Development Board, resource councils, reentry councils, Career & Technical Education (CTE) advisory councils, Boys & Girls Clubs, chambers of commerce, the Workforce Development Board (WDB) Business Services team, and Community Services Boards.

Develop strong partnerships.

Partnerships allow for leveraging of resources and expertise and collectively providing the most comprehensive services to the citizens of our communities. A few suggested partnerships include WIOA Title I pro-viders, Department of Social Services (DSS), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funded programs, Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services (DARS), Virginia Employment Commission (VEC), local planning district commissions, and economic development boards.

As you progress along your career path-way, intentionally develop characteristics of a good leader. Always have a vision for yourself, your students, your teachers, and your program. Articulate your vision clearly and often; let your vision be the primary motivator that keeps you focused on future outcomes. Develop relationships with your team and assure that they have the tools and resources needed to be successful. Create an environment that allows for your team members to be heard, contribute in decision-making, and share accountability. Value each team member and make it a priority to assist them as they grow professionally and become successful; successful team members make for a successful team. Keep the lines of communication open and lead with integrity to establish your credibility. Lastly, but certainly not least, be a “change agent.”

Our 2020 adult ed programs are overshadowed by COVID-19, which has imposed on us a change that brings with it a tremendous sense of urgency. We have been thrust into a “new normal” that we did not expect and certainly do not understand. We must be innovative and take this opportunity to focus on how we will have better and stronger programs as a result. The necessity to develop different avenues of teaching and connecting with our students has left us with no other choice but to be flexible and creative as we adapt to change. As change agent leaders, we know that change is continual and inevitable and therefore we must develop a strategic agility that embraces change. Focusing on the positive impact we have on the students we serve gives us the courage to step forward into a change that will undoubtedly impact the way we conduct adult education programs in the future. It is said that leadership is forged in times of adversity; accept this current situation as an opportunity to forge your leadership skills!

Marjorie Lampkin

Marjorie Lampkin serves as the Coordinator for Career and Transition Services at Rappahannock Community College where she administers the LWDA XIII WIOA Title I Adult & Dislocated Worker and Youth programs, POWER-UP-a cohort based career readiness program, and serves as the Adult Education Program Manager for Region 17. She has dedicated her career to educating and improving the lives of residents of the Northern Neck and Middle Peninsula through working locally in various areas in education and workforce development, including K-12, adult education, higher education, and WIOA Title I.