Advisory boards are an essential resource for strong CTE programs and career academies, and they require participation from local employers – the people who can actually hire your students – in order to make them effective. But have you ever thought about them from the employer’s perspective?
As a member of an advisory board, I can share my thoughts.
Like most employers, I agreed to serve because I knew it was important in theory: I understood the importance of the board in maintaining relevance and providing students with work-based learning opportunities. When it came time to turn theory into action, however, I started to regret signing on. I still knew it was an important principle; but in practice, I knew I would have to miss a few hours of work to attend the meeting, while three deadlines were looming over me and a handful of calls I was late in returning. It meant missing a deadline or not getting things done.
My attendance, then, is going to be based on value. If I feel that the advisory board is doing meaningful work – that we’re actually serving a useful role, and making a difference for the students, I’ll keep going. If it’s a dog-and-pony show, where I just show up to listen to reports and then go home, then I’ll know that my attendance didn’t make any difference, and that I wasted my time.
I may go to the first couple of meetings to give it a chance, but if there’s no point, then eventually I’ll stop going, or drop off the board officially. Remember, I have deadlines to meet and calls to make, and if I’m not contributing any value to the advisory board, then I’d rather skip it and contribute value at work.
And here’s the kicker: Unless you really dig, I probably won’t tell you the real reason I stopped coming. I’ll pass it off as being too busy. It’s hard to tell someone they’re wasting your time, so I won’t.
If you want your employer partners to commit to your advisory board, keep a few points in mind:
- Make them active. They signed up to advise and support, not to be seat-fillers at a presentation. Ask them to share their knowledge and wisdom. Get them to help you solve problems. Look for tasks they can complete and ask them.
- Show them the impact. If their contributions are making an impact, make sure they know about it. Tell them about the student who entered the field after participating in the work-based learning experiences they helped you set up. Show how you’ve changed the curriculum based on their feedback. Let them know that students are pursuing a new set of certifications based on board guidance.
- Value their time. Time is at a premium; don’t waste theirs. Run a tight meeting. Don’t meet more often then you need to. And if you can combine your advisory board with those from nearby schools, so employers don’t have to go to two meetings to say the same thing twice, do it.
Remember that your employer partners have a lot of ways to spend their time: If you can maximize the value they generate, you’ll build an engaged, committed group of employers with a real commitment to your work.
Brett Pawlowski is Executive Vice President of NC3T, the National Center for College and Career Transitions (www.nc3t.com). NC3T provides planning, coaching, technical assistance and tools to help community-based leadership teams plan and implement their college-career pathway systems and strengthen employer connections with education