Not everybody has the same opportunities for accessing education. Sure, it would be great if everybody was able to attend top class schools and receive inspirational teaching from educators like John Keating in Dead Poets Society, Edna Krabappel in The Simpsons and even Christopher Mead in Waterloo Road. However, certain communities are hindered by economic and social issues that prevent them from receiving top class teaching.
Community education officers are tasked with encouraging people to participate in learning programmes and skills development activities, which they previously may not have been able to pursue for a number of reasons.
Community education schemes are open to people of all ages from different backgrounds, but they are mainly focused on communities where a lack of education can hinder the progress of community members, in terms of finding employment and playing an important role in society.
Community education initiatives focus on a number of areas, such as increasing the enrolment of children and young people in primary, secondary and higher education systems, offering adult literacy classes and encouraging people to attend English language lessons, which will allow members of marginalised communities to integrate into mainstream society.
Essentially, this line of work is all about opening up avenues and opportunities for people’s social advancement and personal progression.
Community education officers are employed by local and regional government authorities, public and private sector welfare organisations, charities, community associations, educational institutions and other public service organisations.
If you enter this profession, you’ll be working with individuals and community leaders to identify common education and learning needs. You’ll then be designing, developing and implementing projects and schemes to provide a solution to these problems.
In order to implement these community education programmes, you’ll be coordinating and collaborating with service providers, administrators and other interested parties, who will help to maintain and manage the various learning schemes that you introduce.
Furthermore, you’ll play an integral role in raising public awareness about community education causes, and applying for grants and funding from public and private organisations. This might include encouraging corporate involvement and obtaining sponsorship from local businesses to develop the local areas in which they operate.
As you progress in your career and gain more responsibility, you’ll be responsible for training volunteers, staff and suppliers to make sure ongoing and future projects are managed efficiently.
In order to thrive in this profession, you’ll need to keep up-to-date on trends and developments in the fields of education and community engagement that relate to your area of expertise and the communities that you’re involved with.
Salary & benefits
Annual salaries for community education officers in the early stages of their careers range between £20,000 and £30,000, while mid-level and senior personnel can earn between £25,000 and £35,000.
Working schedules tend to be flexible and will normally fit around the various community education schemes that you implement. Consequently, you might have to work at the weekend and during national holidays from time to time.
However, the majority of community education officers tend to be based in locations where they have easy access to the communities, institutions and organisations in their jurisdiction.
Some travel may be involved when you’re working on community outreach projects or attending public service and education-related events. Many community education officers actually choose to work on a part-time basis and work in other areas of education the rest of the time.
The basic entry requirements for jobs in community education are a degree in any discipline and evidence of previous experience in this area or another related field.
However, the fact that you will regularly be dealing with sensitive social issues, means that a degree in social work, social sciences, youth work, sociology, psychology or community education may give you an extra advantage.
In order to thrive in this profession, you will need awesome communication skills, fantastic organisational skills and a bucket load of patience.
Moreover, if you have a decent grasp of languages other than English, especially those which are indigenous to the members of the communities you work with, it will be a massive bonus!
Training & progression
The majority of your training will be conducted through actively working in communities under the supervision of senior community education officers.
However, your organisation may also put you through formal training sessions and internal courses which will help you to build up your knowledge and understanding of certain social issues.
Taking additional external courses and studying for extra relevant qualifications may be the ideal route to increasing your knowledge base and experience. Courses provided by organisations, such as the National Institute for Adult Continuing Education (NIACE), will provide a great starting point for furthering your personal development.
Many community education officers choose to specialise in a certain area and then develop their careers in that specific direction.
Alternatively, you could move into more senior management positions and be responsible for a wide range of different community programmes. Eventually, if you progress far enough, you might be responsible for an entire region’s schemes and initiatives.