How do educators know what their students will face in the work environment? One of the resources used to learn about career-specific trends like technology and industry expectations is an advisory committee. Advisory committees are made up of professionals in the industry. They meet with instructors/teachers to share ideas and add input into the curriculum and student experience.
Joyce McCoy with Alpena High School Career and Technical Education, said that the primary purpose of a program’s advisory committee is to serve as a resource and connection to the workplace for CTE teachers, administrators, and students. They guide the program in ways that should result in continuous program improvement. Each individual CTE program must have an advisory committee to be recognized by the State of Michigan as a CTE program.
Advisory committees act in similar ways for programs at Alpena Community College. Instructor Andrew Paad said, “The advisory committee gives us a direct link to industry. I do not need to guess or assume what an employer is looking for students to have, I get the information from them first-hand.” ACC Welding Instructor Tim Ratz shared that, “The advisory committees are vitally important to the health of our technical trade programs. Our industry partners are like a compass that give us direction so that we know we are on the right course.” Instructor David Cummins agreed with Paad and Ratz and added that, “As educators, we are constantly balancing the theory of why we do things with the practicality of how to do it. Our industrial advisors are critical in our understanding of how we are doing in achieving this balance.”
Within the ESI client base, there are several team members who participate on various advisory committees. Lisa Kendziorski, Financial Manager Assistant, employed by Innova-Tech Solutions Corp. has been involved for more than five years with ACC’s business and accounting program advisory committee. Lisa can cite several specific examples of times the advisory committee made suggestions about what they were looking for in new employees, that were then incorporated into the classroom.
Matt Gies, of Versa Industrial, LLC, has been involved for more than ten years with ACC’s CAD and Engineering programs. He said that he is able to provide them value regarding what is important for students to learn about the industry, and what isn’t. For example, the advisory committee members suggested that the instructors eliminate board drafting (pencil and paper) since everything is now done using technology.
Matt and Lisa agree that there are also benefits to connecting with others in their field, learning about changes and challenges, and engaging in a roundtable of sorts.
Brian VanWormer has represented Employment Services, Inc. on several advisory committees at AHS and ACC for 16 years. He enjoys being on the advisory committees and says, “They are a great opportunity to help connect what students are learning in the classroom with real-world applications. By providing instructors with real-life examples of needed competencies, educators are better suited to provide instruction that meets the needs of businesses, and better prepare the next generation of workers for available opportunities.”
The advisory committees are not a major time commitment but they offer tremendous value to the instructors, businesses and students. Melissa Timmreck, teacher for the AHS marketing program, says she values the insight provided by the industry professionals on her program’s advisory committee as they offer, “recommendations on certifications, discussion of marketing trends, suggestions for purchasing equipment and software, and assist the program to ensure they truly are simulating the industry.” The advisory committees truly are a win for the instructors, the students and the businesses. Lisa Kendziorski shared that they are a great way to get involved for the benefit of your field, and added, “I’d encourage everyone to find something of interest to get involved in. Even if you don’t think you have anything to give, you do!”