COVID-19 conditions have challenged the definition and validity of regional industries. Modified approaches to jobs beyond brick and mortar, stationery offices, and manufacturing locations have expanded employment to include working via the internet regardless of geographic location. Business and industry are changing and transforming at a rapid pace as technological advances accelerate and alter the way things are done. These conditions present the necessity of re-examining whether advisory boards should be expanded and modernized to a regional approach. Industries in general might be better thought of in terms of a more global marketplace.
WHAT IS A REGIONAL ADVISORY BOARD?
Advisory boards are an integral part of every career technical education (CTE) program. The goal of every CTE program is to prepare students for careers and the world of work. Advisory boards give faculty the voice and connections of business and industry, the primary partners of CTE programs. The connections to industry help guide curriculum to be up to the speed of business, give students direct connections to employers and careers, and help put the community in community college.
Regional advisory boards are a way to connect with employer decision-makers and get an overall view of current labor market need. Business leaders have the on-the-ground ability to see the future of their businesses. Labor market information, while valuable, only looks backwards at what has happened. Having higher-level decision makers at advisory boards can help students and programs gain direct access to careers in that industry. This practice also helps faculty spend time at what they do best: teaching and curriculum.
Many, if not all, of the logistics of coordinating a regional advisory board could be coordinated by regional consortium partners, state directors, and regional directors, as well as others at local colleges such as economic development departments, career centers, foundations, or other areas of colleges that are working directly with local businesses. Many regional consortia are already gathering business and industry together with faculty as well as conducting research on the jobs of the future.
For many CTE programs, the coordination of local advisory board meetings is done by CTE faculty leaders like department chairs in addition to their teaching duties. One idea is to specify what duties could be performed by “off-shuttled work.” Examples of off-shuttled activities are the identification of potential employers and keeping track of and communicating with graduates to establish non-advertised career pathways and job openings. In other words, the networking part of the job can be assigned to a career center or division administrator if the college and programs have the funds to employ an individual whose primary responsibility is to focus on industry and business contacts in collaboration with discipline faculty, advertise the CTE pathways offered by the college, and establish ongoing communication with partners.
Local advisory boards have long been a concern of employers because they can receive multiple requests from even one college. For example, a company like Boeing may get requests to serve on the advisory boards of multiple departments and programs, from the electrical department to the engineering department to manufacturing. When one multiplies that situation by the number of surrounding colleges, one can see how employers become overwhelmed. Employers may be forced to send people who are not the decision-makers to the multiple advisory board meetings and in some cases may not be able to send anyone at all.
WHY DO ADVISORY BOARDS EXIST?
Advisory boards are a required part of the federal Perkins funding for career technical education. The Smith-Hughes Act of 1917 was the first authorization for the federal funding of vocational education. Subsequent legislation for vocational education—now called career technical education—included the Vocational Act of 1973 and the Carl D. Perkins Act of 1984. Perkins was reauthorized in 1990, 1998, 2006, and most recently in July of 2018. CTE programs receiving federal funding through Perkins may fund an advisory council under the grant program. Only the following types of advisory councils are allowable:
- The advisory council includes representatives of business and industry, including small businesses, and, to the extent possible, labor organizations, higher education representatives and faculty, administrators, representatives of special populations,  CTE and academic teachers, students, and community partners;
- The role of the advisory council is to participate in the design, implementation, and evaluation of CTE programs, including establishing effective programs and procedures to enable informed and effective participation in CTE programs.
WHO ATTENDS ADVISORY BOARDS?
The ideal advisory board participants should be employers, unions, students, faculty, and administrators. The meetings should be listening sessions for faculty, with employers describing the needs of business and industry and the types of employees they need and want, both short and long term. The dialogue should be focused on how students can get the best quality education and training to be prepared for the jobs of the future. Administrators can help facilitate and translate the employer needs into action by helping the programs receive the resources, staffing, and funding needed to achieve the highest possible quality training. Administrators can also play a role in ensuring CTE funding and resources do truly go to CTE programs.
An organized system of regional advisory board participation can help to provide a wide variety of diverse representation from business. At many colleges, individual faculty must solicit industry professionals, which can be limiting and problematic and can possibly pose potential conflicts of interest. A more cohesive system of oversight can assist administrators in overseeing and ensuring the best possible use of CTE funding.
WHAT ARE THE EMPLOYER’S POINT OF VIEW AND THE EMPLOYER’S ROLE ON ADVISORY BOARDS?
Employers need employees. A small employer often may not have the funding to run internal training programs and may look to community colleges and other community partners to prepare students to hit the ground running when they begin work. Even larger employers want their new hires to be as fully trained and prepared as possible.
Direct interviews of potential employers, pointed questions regarding past or present employment of community college students, and the creation of surveys are some examples that can assist a program in keeping abreast of current industry trends. Deep links and dialogue with employers are essential to the maintenance and efficacy of curriculum and programs. Simply put, employers want well-trained students, faculty want curriculum that prepares students, and students want careers.
WHAT IS THE FACULTY ROLE AT ADVISORY BOARDS?
Faculty at advisory boards should listen to the needs of employers and critically examine their curriculum to decide whether it meets the needs of business and industry in order to ensure their students can get the careers they want and need. A guided system for the interpretation of advisory board needs could aid with being responsive and in alignment with college and district goals.
WHY DOES THE ASCCC SUPPORT REGIONAL ADVISORY BOARDS?
The Academic Senate for California Community Colleges always supports actions that bring more value to the faculty role. Having faculty connect with business and industry decision-makers helps colleges, programs, and students. Allowing time for faculty to focus on teaching, learning, and curriculum is best for colleges, programs, students, and faculty. Collaborating with the other career education partners in the system and community can break down silos and create an even smoother guided pathway for students to travel from education to careers.
WHAT WILL BE THE ROLE OF LOCAL ADVISORY BOARDS IN THE FUTURE?
Having a regional advisory board can relieve some of the required work to receive Perkins and Strong Workforce funding. Faculty should still engage and talk with their local business and industry leaders, but those discussions can be more focused and informal because all the requirements of funding are met by the regional advisory boards. Dialogue with local businesses and industry is always helpful to students.
Discipline-specific meetings among all faculty throughout the state could jointly work to create job-specific questions that could be asked by career center representatives via either an in-person call or survey. At this point, no method is established for disciplines throughout the state to collaborate.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF A REGIONAL ADVISORY BOARD?
In 2016, the Strong Workforce Task Force recommendations highlighted the need for the engagement of industry professionals and faculty. Engaged employers, workforce boards, economic development entities, unions, and other workforce organizations can advise faculty in the program development and review process.
Many benefits can come from establishing a regional advisory board composed of diverse industry and business partners within a college or district’s geographical boundaries or a region along with faculty, CTE students, administrators, and other college community stakeholders. Among these benefits are the following:
- Gain insights regarding curriculum and training needs from potential employers of students.
- Gain insights regarding work-based opportunities such as internships, mentoring, job shadowing, externships, and apprenticeships.
- Gain insights and help establish standards regarding equipment and software purchases.
- Gain insights into local program review processes.
- Develop community and public relations for college and CTE programs to boost enrollment.
- Create collaborative learning experiences between industry and business partners and faculty.
- Advocate for financial and legislative support for CTE programs.
A regional advisory board could provide a listing of current skills, technologies, internships, job opportunities, work-study, mentorship, current issues surrounding the industry, networking opportunities, publications, and other forms of partnerships and collaborations.
Every CTE program is required to connect with business and industry. Regional advisory boards can help discipline faculty connect with others in their regions and give faculty access to business leaders who are decision-makers. Several regions and employment sectors around the state are already conducting regular regional advisory boards. These events have had success in attracting business leaders and decisions-makers along with faculty from multiple colleges, which has resulted in a smoother and faster pathway for students to get the careers they want and need.
1. Perkins V defines special populations as “individuals with disabilities; individuals from economically disadvantaged families, including low-income youth and adults; individuals preparing for non-traditional fields; single parents, including single pregnant women; out-of-workforce individuals; English learners; homeless individuals described in section 725 of the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act (42 U.S.C. 11434a); youth who are in, or have aged out of, the foster care system; and youth with a parent who is a member of the armed forces and is on active duty.”