Community education officers help to organise and encourage participation in local educational programmes, such as literacy, numeracy and computing classes. They usually focus on areas with high levels of unemployment and social deprivation.
Responsibilities typically include:
- planning educational programmes
- establishing new community initiatives
- liaising with relevant community groups and organisations
- recruiting, training and supervising tutors
- managing budgets
- maintaining records
- writing plans and reports
- determining priorities
- preparing and submitting funding applications
- undertaking outreach work to encourage more people to participate
- facilitating self-help community groups
- helping individuals to control their own learning
Employers of community education officers include voluntary and charitable organisations (for example, the Workers' Educational Association), local authorities, arts and heritage organisations, educational institutions and youth or community organisations.
Vacancies are advertised in local, regional and national newspapers including the Times Educational Supplement, local authority jobs lists, by charities and voluntary organisations and in publications such as The Big Issue.
Getting involved in voluntary community work, such as adult education or youth work, will both give you an advantage when it comes to applying for jobs and help you to be confident in your choice of career. It may be possible to get involved with outreach work at university and your university careers service may be able to advise on other opportunities. It is worth making speculative applications (particularly for work experience placements), for which the Voluntary Agencies Directory or Charities Digest may be useful. Local charities and volunteer bureaux can often provide work experience placements.
For most community education officer roles, employers look for graduates with relevant paid or voluntary community experience. However, there are also routes into this career for school leavers.
Graduates can have a degree in any discipline, although qualifications in sociology, social work or policy, community studies, communications, public administration or social sciences can be advantageous. Teaching and adult or further education qualifications can also be helpful, as can a postgraduate qualification in community studies or community education, particularly if your first degree is not in a related subject. It is normally necessary to undertake relevant paid or voluntary community work experience prior to entry into the profession. Employers generally consider personality and experience to be more important than degree subject studied.
It may be possible to enter this area of work without a degree if you have extensive relevant experience, particularly in the voluntary sector and in roles that involve family or recreational activities. There are NVQ and diploma qualifications available in youth and community work that you may be able to study for while working, with the support of your employer.
Good interpersonal, teamworking, problem-solving and communication skills are essential, as is a mature, confident, patient and resilient disposition. Long hours, working with people in disadvantaged situations and limited funding and resources can sometimes make the job quite demanding.