What is an advisory committee and what can my program gain from having one?
Each advisory committee is made up of individuals with experience and expertise in the occupational field(s) that the program serves who advise educators on the design, development, implementation, evaluation, maintenance, and revision of Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs within a career pathway. (For more information on Career Clusters and career pathways in Colorado, link to the Colorado Community College System (CCCS) Career and Technical Education website: Career Clusters). An advisory committee is required for every approved career and technical education (CTE) program in Colorado as it is considered to be an invaluable part of the program, and ultimately, the student’s success in a given career path.
In addition to fulfilling a state requirement in Colorado, advisory committees help to:
- Allow the community to be linked to the educational system via business, industry, and labor
representatives that add expertise and resources to the CTE program;
- Identify new and emerging fields and modify existing programs;
- Promote communication among education, business, and industry regarding employment
needs of the community;
- Identify new and emerging fields (both local and global) and modify existing programs;
- Strengthen programs by providing student competency lists and reviewing curriculum;
- Ensure that each career pathway academic ladder matches the corresponding industry career
ladder and promote career pathways within the community;
- Review student outcomes (completion rates, placement rates, and state licensing examination
- Ensure that programs are relevant and up-to-date by assessing the equipment and facilities
available and make recommendations as needed;
- Provide work-based learning experiences for learners;
- Provide training opportunities for educators;
- Advocate programs to communities and legislators and seek legislative support for career
pathways if needed;
- Assist with placement of program completers; and
- Leverage community resources (equipment, facilities, materials, and broker community
Why do I need to consider the committee structure?
One of the first questions that needs to be asked when you set up your advisory committee, is what type of functionality and connectivity do I need to have from my committee, and across what levels (middle school to postsecondary) does my program span within my community? The following are several types of structures to consider given the depth and breadth of your program:
Since the onset of Perkins IV, a trend of joint secondary and postsecondary advisory committees has taken place across the country. Career pathways require secondary and postsecondary educators to work together to develop plans of study with business and industry. In a career pathways system, the curriculum is to be developed together and placed over two or more institutions.
Thus, a joint advisory committee that brings together secondary educators, postsecondary educators, and industry would be advantageous. Likewise, as secondary district expand CTE opportunities, it may be advantageous to combine middle school and secondary advisory committees.
Recognizing that Colorado has many geographic obstacles that make collaboration between Secondary and Postsecondary Institutions challenging, an alternative structure when having separate advisory committees is to have representatives on each committee. It is strongly encouraged for secondary programs to include information and data from postsecondary programs. This could be a Postsecondary Plan of Study or feedback from postsecondary instructors on the success of students they have from the secondary program. Likewise, middle school programs should seek similar partnerships with the secondary programs available in their district.
Adopting a “Systems” Viewpoint
Typically, occupational education programs within a pathway must be coordinated with other federal or state initiatives to avoid unnecessary duplication of programs and services. Advisory committees must be made aware of initiatives or legislation that will affect the program, and there may be a need to coordinate or make connections with other activities. While this may seem overwhelming to a person new to starting an advisory committee or to the committee members themselves, it helps to visualize the ways that programs are connected on the education spectrum as well as to other resources and entities within the economic system of the community and the State of Colorado.
The following are committees to consider when adopting a systems viewpoint for your advisory committee:
Where do I find members for my committee?
Looking at the systems viewpoint is also a great way to look for new members for your advisory committee. In addition to the resources listed on the previous page, you should also consider the following:
- Employers in your area
- Grants or foundations that may exist in your community even if they are not related to education
- Professional Groups within the Career Area (ex. Colorado Association for Mechanical Engineers)
- Equipment Vendors
- Past students or parents of students working in the career field
It is important to note, that institutions may have a specific protocol for contacting community members to serve in an advisory capacity. Please check with your administration prior to contacting outside parties.
I am ready to start contacting possible committee members; what works best?
While there is no right or wrong way to solicit potential members for your program’s advisory committee, many advisors have found that a personal invitation, such as a phone call works well to introduce yourself and the program. This can be followed up with a formal invitation. We’ve included several templates and dialogs to begin your conversation with future committee members. In general, when inviting members, either informally or formally, you should:
- Identify yourself and your role in the program
- Let the potential member know how you received their contact information (personal referral, or a general statement, such as “I see that your company manufactures “X” that we use in our program, and we would love for you to be part of our program because…”
- Let the person know what makes your program unique or valuable to the community
- Identify what the potential member can bring to the advisory committee (i.e. their area of expertise, experience with projects, other boards, etc.) and how they can help the program
- Give the general time commitment for committee participation (i.e. we meet 4 times a year, etc.)
- Give your contact information, or set up a time to discuss any further questions
How do I attract potential advisory committee members?
A quick brochure on your program is really helpful in highlighting your program’s value in the community. Many programs also have a simple advising sheet that shows the sequence of the courses in the programs. These kinds of materials are not only valuable for students and parents, but also provide the opportunity to showcase the program. Items you may include in a program brochure are: length of the program, number of students to enroll and/or complete the program, sequence of program, any limitations to programs entry (selection process?), average GPA for students in program, student scholarships available, student internships available, other work learning opportunities, past student successes or highlights, any program recognitions, and student career technical organizations or student professional organization affiliations.
Committee Selection, Organization and Orientation
How do I request, confirm, and orient new members?
A formal letter requesting membership should be sent only after an informal face-to-face meeting or phone conversation discussing the potential member’s contribution and role on the advisory committee.
The committee’s success will depend to a large extent on how well members understand their roles at the first meeting they attend. New and continuing advisory committee members should be regularly provided with information relative to the committee’s purpose, function, structure, and goals as expressed in the committee’s work plan.
What do new business members need to understand?
Items to be included in orientation of new members:
- CTE Advisory Committee Members Guide
- Copy of Program Approval
- Data on Program; Five-year Trend Data
- Five-year plan
- Annual Report and Program Accreditation Information (Postsecondary Only)
What do I need to consider in the (final) selection of advisory committee members?
In general, membership should be representative of both genders and reflective of the ethnic diversity of the community, or at a minimum, represent the diversity of the industry. Membership must include the following:
- At least a 51% majority of business and industry members (A broader representation could benefit from understanding the works of an advisory committee and serve as non-voting, consulting members.)
- An educational administrator;
- counselor/advisor and/or a special populations representative
Optional members may include:
- secondary and/or postsecondary technical instructors;
- general education (academic) faculty
- current student or parent representative
Former students/alumni should only be on your advisory committee if they have several years of professional experience in the industry and are able to focus on the program’s future success, rather than past achievements.
If possible try to consider the broad spectrum of ways potential members may have the ability to contribute to the program (i.e. technical expertise, connections to community or fundraising, in-kind donation, etc.). High performance advisory committees are usually comprised of higher
I live in a rural area, what advice can you give me?
Rural areas must deal with special considerations and challenges when setting up the advisory committee. Most notably are the disparity of resources found in rural communities and the distance between resources. Here are some ways to approach conversations with potential committee members regarding the upside of having them as a resource in your rural community:
Committees can also look for ways to expand and enhance the involvement of small businesses by having them leverage their connections with:
- Other business contacts
Committees may also want to work through the local chamber of commerce if they are members.
How can our rural community utilize a Consortium to enhance our programs?
As a rural school, you may be or want to consider being part of a consortium. Consortia exist when districts find it advantageous and cost-effective to cooperate with other districts in the management of their CTE programs. Individual districts may lack the personnel or the fiscal resources required to provide a broad range of administrative and student services. By pooling resources, districts reduce costs, avoid duplication, and provide for a more comprehensive range of services and programs. (In some instances, a BOCES or a community college may serve as the fiscal and administrative agent for the consortium’s Perkins funding. Refer to the CTE Administrators’ Handbook, Section V, Part C3 to learn more about the advantages of this arrangement.
A program can also operate its advisory board as part of a consortium. In this case, each district would contribute to finding members but would not face the challenge of finding an entire advisory board. The shared advisory board would then contribute advice, resources, and expertise to all of the programs. A shared advisory board would work best between districts that have equitable programs as well as similar philosophies, policies, and procedures.