Who Owns Your Advisory Board?

By Thom Suddreth 

Recently, I had the opportunity to travel to New York City with Brett Pawlowski and spend the day working with a group of CTE educators on employer engagement. We spent the day discussing many aspects of developing partnerships with area employers. Most of the group had to one extent or another, partnerships that connected the programs of study with potential opportunities for their students in the world of work.

After spending a good part of the day discussing partnership levels and recruitment we turned to the topic of creating and maintaining program advisory boards. We shared with the group a set of advisory board best practices that included having the business partners taking ownership of the board. Not surprisingly, ownership of the board was the one point that caused the most discussion. Most of the educators stated that their advisory boards were essentially governed and managed by the school leadership. That pretty much reflects my own experience serving on an advisory board.

Until recently I served on a CTE advisory board at the district level for my local school district. For virtually every meeting all the members would receive an emailed announcement for the meeting. The location would be at a school and the agenda would include a report on how many students were involved in CTE courses, how many had received internships, a report from a state agency on workforce development and a tour of the school’s featured CTE program. The attendance at the meeting was roughly 80% teachers and 20% business partners. At the end of each meeting the CTE director would mention that she wished that there were more business partners in attendance and ask the members to make every attempt to reach out to potential partners for the next meeting.

Sadly, this type of advisory board is all too common in our CTE programs. I have seen terrific programs suffer because they didn’t have the benefit of robust, engaged advisory boards. I’ve also seen programs exceed expectations due to engaged employer partners and school administrators who worked with them in a collaborative environment. These employers and educators developed a partnership of equals that allowed each to work with the other for the betterment of their programs and the benefit of their students.

Finally, I would encourage you to take a look at the advisory boards for your programs. If the advisory board is not living up to your expectations ask yourself this question, “Who owns your advisory board?”.