In a Q&A with Jeff Arnott, Director of Adult and Community Education for Brevard Public Schools and COABE Region 3 Board Representative, we learn more about how he has created successful partnerships in his community. Arnott also shares tips for other programs looking to start relationships to benefit adult learners.

First, can you tell us about yourself, your work with Brevard Adult and Community Education and the program?

This is my 6th year on the job as Director of Adult and Community Education. Before I came to Brevard I was the Director of Adult Ed in the Florida Keys. I came to Brevard Adult Ed to be closer to family and the former director was great and had built a winning program—we’ve made it much better. We’re a family at Brevard—I have a wonderful staff and team of administrators. This is my dream job!

Our program has four campuses (Palm Bay, Melbourne, Cocoa and Titusville) in Brevard County and we want to be a driving force in the economy. Brevard Adult Ed offers a GED prep program and a fully accredited high school program for adults.

What partnerships does Brevard Adult Ed currently have with local businesses and organizations?

We partnered with Eastern Florida State College, they have 4 campuses in Brevard County, and give all of our students a free class when they go over to the college. The University of Florida has also recently offered financial literacy classes to our students.

We teach family literacy classes at My Community Cares (a local nonprofit) and students are coming out the program with a GED.

We also work with CareerSource Brevard, they offer training and help our students find employment. In another partnership with the city of Cocoa, Mayor Henry Parrish has committed to give $100,000 to create a building to give logistics training to GED students.

Walmart is opening up their largest refrigerated warehouse close to one of our campuses and they have agreed to hire students from our program.

Brevard Adult Ed will be starting a pre-apprenticeship program in construction for students and we also have future plans to build a tech center.

What is your advice for other adult education programs that want to branch out and develop new connections?

It’s about getting in there and having the courage to build the relationships and say you are here to help them (businesses and organizations) out. Find out who the key players are and set up meetings with them.

Join your local chamber of commerce and attend all the events you can. We are members of all four local chambers.

If you’re in a school district, talk to every principal and administrator about what you’re doing and what your program offers. In many cases their programs need to be refreshed and you can help them with that by offering adult education classes.

Don’t forget about the lawmakers, build relationships with them and talk to all your representatives.

As a director I make it a priority to know what’s going on in the classroom and what’s happening in the community. I also encourage my folks to get active and it’s my job to get them excited about these partnerships—it takes the whole team to build relationships. I give my employees business cards, I advise them to build relationships and keep their eyes and ears open for opportunities.

We also use alumni to advocate for us about how adult ed is turning things around and changing lives.

Brevard has become well-known for its social media presence. How are you using it to develop relationships and connect with potential partners?

Every time our vendors and partners do something we share it on Twitter. The biggest way to build your program is to have a school district that supports social media. Sharing student success stories has been one of the most powerful tools we have.

It takes time to build your social media following, get a team of people to help you. We keep it active and highlight what’s happening in our program and in the workforce community.