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Organizing Advisory Committees

Preliminary Organizational Planning

Good planning forms the base for a sound, workable advisory committee.  Although the planning steps will vary, the following points should be considered when an educator or administrator is spearheading the drive to form an advisory committee.  The information on each point contained in this handbook can be adapted to the local situation in developing occupational or general advisory committees, or used as presented.

Discuss the potential formation of the advisory committee with school administrators, instructors, and members of the community. If advisory committees have been attempted previously in the system or school and failed, look for the reasons for failure. If any negative feelings concerning advisory committees are found, move slowly and lay careful groundwork before proposing formation of the advisory committee.

  • When a favorable attitude exists, inform the appropriate administrator(s) that establishment of an advisory committee is a major requirement for the system and the individual program or program area.
  • If the general advisory committee is to be formed, the superintendent (or director of schools) and the chairperson of the school board should be informed.  The general advisory committee should be appointed by the school board.
  • If the occupational program advisory committee is to be formed, the CTE director, the principal of the school, and the superintendent should be informed.  The occupational program advisory committee should be appointed by the superintendent.

After the appropriate administrator(s) have been informed and have provided support for at least exploring the possibility of forming an advisory committee, prepare a written statement that includes the following:

  • The purpose of the proposed advisory committee;
  • The responsibilities and duties of the advisory committee and its relationship to the instructional program and the school; and
  • An outline of the procedures to be followed in organizing the advisory committee.

Request the appropriate administrator(s) to approve the statement and to include it in a written request to the governing board asking for authorization to form the advisory committee.

Obtaining administrative support is a very important step. Educators should consult the administration for advice and follow the established procedures.

  • Some schools select a small group of citizens and school officials to plan the organization of the occupational advisory committee. This group develops a statement of purposes and a description of procedures to be used in the organizational process.  Members of the planning group may later be included in the list from which advisory committee members are chosen. 

Committee Structure

After the formation of an advisory committee has been approved, the next step is the signing of a statement of purposes by the school board or community college trustees.  The following sample may be copied or amended to fit local needs.  Once signed, this statement of purposes becomes the charter under which the advisory committee operates.

The size of an occupational advisory committee should not be mandated.  Too many factors affect the optimal size, including the number of employers in the area served, the diversity of job offerings within the community or occupation, etc.  All job specialties for which students are trained should be represented, and both the employers and employees selected should represent their employment fields in numbers proportionate to local business and industry.  Select enough members to give an adequate base for opinions, yet limit the number so that members can comfortably and freely discuss business.  Normally, between five and fifteen members produce the most effective committee.

MEMBERSHIP

Occupational Perspective

Advisory committees represent the views and needs of the public in the design of Career and Technical Education programs.  All segments of the involved population (in the case of a general advisory committee) or the occupation (for an occupational advisory committee) must be included in the membership.  Members should be knowledgeable of the Workforce Development needs of the community.  A school system or postsecondary institution is not being fair to itself or its constituency if it designs Career and Technical Education programs around a limited portion of an occupation and then chooses advisory committee members only from that portion.

One important role a good advisory committee performs is to broaden the perspective of school personnel.  Individuals view training needs from their own experience.  A broad perspective requires that persons with differing backgrounds combine to give input and advice.  Avoid selecting members who have a political motivation for committee service or who have a specific "pet project" they want to promote over the welfare of the overall program.

Most Career and Technical Education programs enjoy greater benefits when the general advisory committee members represent the community leaders at-large or influential members of the community.  The occupational program advisory committee benefits when both workers and supervisors are represented on the committee.  People who actually perform the skills and those who hire and supervise can then work together to give the instructional staff an accurate picture of the community's employment needs.

Choose members of general advisory committees to represent the community as a whole. Representatives of the following groups may be included:

  • industry
  • business
  • labor and manpower commissions
  • other educational organizations such as the director of the local TTC or appropriate dean of a community college
  • the professions, agriculture, and other groups on the basis of community composition

Consider the following groups of people when choosing occupational advisory committee members:

  • business owners
  • employee supervisors
  • employees
  • personnel directors

Terms of Service

It must be decided the length of appointments for advisory committee members.  Many effective ways to determine length of terms are in use.  Mostly, it is preferred to set a time limit for both occupational and general advisory committee terms and to define the size of the committee in writing.  This procedure promotes a continuing flow of new ideas that helps keep the committee's advice current and relevant.  The most common organization is three-year terms of service staggered so that one-third of the members are replaced each year.  Advantages of this organization include the following:

  • Terms are long enough for members to become thoroughly familiar with the committee's purposes and potential.
  • Members in the second or third year of their terms add the benefit of experience while newly appointed members add fresh ideas and perspective.
  • Members are more likely to give their time freely when the term of service is predetermined.

 When the terms of service are limited and defined, the question of reappointment arises.  Is membership limited to one, two or more terms?  Can former members be reappointed after a time lapse?  Establishing policies on these issues avoids potential problems later.

A disadvantage of reappointment is that a member may take it personally when some members are reappointed and others are not.  However, certain members may be so valuable to a program that a system or school will want to continue their appointments.  A policy of reappointment after a time lapse (usually of one year) can allow for these situations.

Checklist

  • Inform members of the length of their term of service before they accept appointment.
  • Establish the policy for term of service at the time the committee is organized.
  • Allow for later reviews to assess whether the term of service policy is effective. Change the policy if members, administrators, and the instructional staff agree.