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2017 VAACE State Conference

By Karen Gent

The Virginia Association for Adult and Continuing Education (VAACE) state conference was held in Fredericksburg, Virginia on November 1-2, 2017. VAACE is an association of adult education practitioners that is dedicated to the professional interests and learning needs of its members. It represents an exchange of ideas and information, a forum for new developments in the profession, and a professional environment for working, learning, and communicating with other adult and continuing education practitioners.

This year’s state conference theme, “Collective Impact,” spoke not only to the continuous changes that the field of adult education is facing, but also to how the collaboration of agencies has a positive influence on students, programs, and communities. The conference showcased nationally known speakers, networking opportunities, and interactive presentations and workshops.

A team of three adult education practitioners representing Southwest Regional Adult Education (SRAE) along with a workforce panel of six members representing the collaborative work done in Southwest Virginia attended the event.

There were five main content strands of the conference focusing on community-based literacy organizations, postsecondary education, workforce development and integrated education training, correctional education, English language acquisition, and advocacy.

On Wednesday morning, November 1, Tammy Brown, Facilitator for the GED® BOOK Program offered at the District 43 Probation and Parole Office in Tazewell County, presented a workshop focused on the development of an adult education program within a probation and parole center. Tammy discussed the challenges as well as the possible solutions for problems that may occur in such a program. She highlighted the benefits of this type of program along with the testimonies of students who feel that the program was an important aspect of their re-entry. The workshop was beneficial to participants who wanted to know how to set up a GED® classroom within a probation center.

On Wednesday afternoon, I (Karen Gent), SRAE Lead Teacher, presented a workshop on integrating comprehensive soft skills into the adult education curriculum. I shared best practices and projects used to integrate soft skills into the adult education classroom. From resume writing to mock job interviews, this workshop provided participants with resources and ideas to help students become work-ready. By the end of the workshop, participants were equipped to develop a comprehensive approach to teaching soft skills that enable learners to make a seamless transition from the classroom to the workplace.

Thursday morning, November 2, began with an opening session for all attendees featuring regional workforce team panels representing Workforce Areas 1, 11, and 13. The impressive 7-member team representing Area 1 (Southwest Virginia) included the following persons (pictured from left to right): Kim Dorton, Dean of Health Sciences at Mountain Empire Community College; Anna Rice Wright, Virginia Employment Commission’s TRADE Act Program Manager; Darrell Blankenship, People Inc.’s Workforce Development Director; Aleeta Spicer, Workforce Development Board Executive Director; Rachel Patton, Workforce Development Board Business Services Director; Whitney Church, Department of Aging and Rehabilitative Services; and Linda Allen, SRAE Program Manager.

This panel shared the workforce challenges of Area 1 and the innovative projects that have been implemented which bring solutions to those challenges targeting industry sectors of Southwest Virginia such as tourism, entrepreneurship, healthcare, and manufacturing. Anna Rice Wright defined adult education as, “…so much more than just the GED®. It is the dependable partner who is able to deliver the goods.”

For more information about adult education services offered throughout the region, contact Southwest Regional Adult Education at 866-581-9935.

GED® is a registered trademark of the American Council on Education. Used under license.