How Important is an Advisory Committee to your Vocational Program Success?

April
2006
John Frala,

Why do you Need to have Advisory Meetings?

First, it is the law. Title 5 55601 says, "The governing board of each community college district participating in a vocational education program shall appoint a vocational education advisory committee to develop recommendations on the program and to provide liaison between the district and potential employers."

Authority cited Sections 66700 and 70901, Education Code. Reference: Section 70901, Education Code. As noted, vocational programs are required to have an advisory committee. Many sources of funding are simply lost because Title 5 requires an advisory committee to meet grant qualifications. Furthermore, most college campuses that provide a fund through the Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Technical Education Act (Public Law 105-332, VTEA) require that minutes of an advisory committee meeting shall be provided before federal funding can be released.

Additionally, advisory committee meetings can be used to validate funding requests and specific needs of the advisory committee or college. For example, the advisory committee can be used to note technology job changes in the community, which might result in the addition of new courses to accommodate new technologies. Such recommendations from the advisory committee can provide documentation and justification for federal funding.

What Makes this Group so Special?
Who makes up the advisory group? What should the group expect to accomplish? Depending on what the program director is trying to accomplish there is a general rule of thumb as to getting an advisory panel together.

  1. Get people involved who will understand your vocational program. such as:
    1. A former graduate student who is working in the local area.
    2. The department dean or chairperson.
    3. A dean or department chair from a neighboring college, with a program similar to yours.
    4. Local high school program instructor.
    5. Business trade companies representatives.
  2. Keep the meeting professional, (brown act rules apply).
  3. Invite the community businesses to participate (via phone calls or letters).
  4. Hold face-to-face contact with the community (i.e. high school programs, clubs, job fairs, community functions).
  5. Involve local government offices (Consumer Affairs, Air Quality Management District, (AQMD), Economic Development Department, Workforce Development Office, and Department of Labor).
  6. Invite local politicians who share a voice in the community.
  7. Involve your school counseling department who can establish transfer information and help with job placement.
  8. Depending on what type of vocational program you are conducting, invite factory programs who could enhance the program with participation.

When is the Best Time to Conduct an Advisory Committee Meeting?

Ask the group. If this is your first time, you should send out a survey to gauge the best time and location to meet. Some meetings are better in the afternoon, using this as an opportunity to have a sandwich together, while others prefer evening discussions over a small dinner. This is all based on the needs of your group. However, I have found that weekends do not work well due to family commitments. Surveys by my campus show the majority prefer Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, and attendance is usually good at either lunch or early dinner. Regardless of when you meet, ensure that you make everyone feel welcome.

What are the Responsibilities of this group?

  1. New business: what are the changing needs of the vocational field in your discipline?
  2. What laws have changed that could impact your program next year?
  3. Review of course outlines. committee members may be asked to respond to the following questions:
    Are there revisions, additions, or deletions to the knowledge, skills, and attitudes required for this course (program)?
    Are the course standards realistic?
  4. Review of program description from catalog or new brochure. Ask the advisory committee members to comment on accuracy of explanations listed in the college catalog, they might make perfect sense to you, but do they to your students?
  5. Review the completeness of program.
    Are there new courses or content that need to be added to the program?
    Are there courses or content no longer required?
    Is the program description clear and easily understood?
  6. Compile a mailing list for distribution of new brochures.
  7. Suggest new equipment for expansion.
  8. Provide advice on professional organizations and or advisory boards that the program should be involved with.
  9. Help in suggesting part-time staffing.

Making the Meeting Count

Start the meeting on time and prepare a formal agenda using some of the points above. No one likes to attend a meeting that is disorganized. If you would like a sample agenda, please contact me at: Jfrala [at] riohondo.edu. In addition, I would suggest that you showcase the work you have completed by providing your advisory committee with a tour of your facility.
After the Meeting

Prepare your minutes and send out to advisory committee members within 48 hours for reviewing and correction as necessary. Minutes are easier to compile right after the meeting, when memories are fresh. In addition, your advisory group will appreciate receiving meeting minutes soon after the meeting. Certificates of appreciation should be sent to the attendees. you might even consider laminating them for framing and viewing in the customers' lounge. This will be important to your industry members because it lets the community see that the business is participating in the college program. It is also a great way to advertise the program.

Most importantly, you should stay in contact with your advisory committee. Make calendar reminders to contact your committee throughout the year, which will help in advancing the program with donations. Seek support and advice on items decided by the committee and act on items suggested during the meetings.

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