To enable an occupational advisory committee to function properly, the relationship of the committee to the board of education or the board of trustees must be clearly defined. Either board may identify a group of citizens from which it will solicit information and assistance. When this group of citizens is identified as an occupational advisory committee and is authorized by the board, it's become a legal committee. However, the committee's role is purely advisory - not administrative or policy-making. The committee's function is to advise and assist the board on matters pertaining to the instructional program, not to direct the program. It must always be remembered that the board is the only legal and lawful agent responsible for policy decisions and the administration of the school system or post-secondary institution.
The occupational advisory committee is usually a continuing committee, organized in such a manner that it will continue to operate when there is a change of teachers. Thus, the committee is truly a committee of the school system or institution and community rather than a teacher's committee.
The activities of most successful advisory committees are centered around the functions of Occupational/Community surveys, course content advisement, student placement, community public relations, equipment and facilities, program staffing, program review, and community resources. Each of these functions as well as related activities with which advisory committees might aid you, is discussed under the appropriate heading below.
A solid rationale for why schools offer particular programs and what should be included in a program and what should be included in the program is essential for the successful establishment of the program. Advisory committees can play a major role in the planning and analysis of surveys that attempt to define program needs. The actual survey is usually conducted by vocational education personnel with the support of the advisory committee.
A major focus of the committee survey is on questions relating to the job market, especially in determining the short and long-term human resource need in relevant labor markets. When discussing the community survey design, the advisory committee should first attempt to identify the major questions to be answered, these questions should aid in making decisions for establishing, updating, expanding or discontinuing the program. Surveys are generally designed to obtain the following kinds of information:
- Number of people in a geographic area currently employed in a given occupation, number currently needed, and projected number for a set number of years, usually five years
- Occupations in greatest demand
- Jobs within an occupation for which training is needed
- Interested people and adults and training for selected occupation
- Need for supplemental training for people already employed
- Number of graduates from school occupational programs who might be accepted for employment in a community
- New areas in which training should be developed
- Recommendations on the vocational programs to be expanded, continued, for established
When the advisory committee meets to review and discuss the data from the survey, several topics need to be thoroughly discussed. First, what general trends are noticeable in the data? Second, do the data provide accurate and adequate information for making the necessary decisions?. Third, how can the data be presented so that they are readily and factually interpretable? The interpretation and summarization of survey results are important advisory committee activities. Although projected occupational demand is a major consideration for establishing new programs it is not the only consideration. A community survey usually contains additional factors, such a student abilities, community financial resources, population trends, and attitudes of parents for the proposed program, which may be considered essential. The community survey focuses on questions address to students, parents, and business people. Information from these sources compliments human resource information and provides comprehensive information for all parties served by the educational program.
Course Content Advisement
Providing advice on course content is another of the eight recognized functions of occupational advisory committees. The primary concern of the advisory committee in this area is the establishment of practices that keep the instruction practical and relevant. All phases of training should be reviewed periodically to keep the program occupationally oriented and up-to-date.
The advisory committee can engage in identifying occupational competencies, developing goal statements for the program, and reviewing the performance objectives of the program. Each of these activities centers around ensuring the technical relevancy of instruction. The advisory committee can also offer advice concerning the relevance of course content to students. For example, does the course content provide the student with entry-level job skill? Does it provide an adequate basis for further education?
In giving advice concerning course content the advisory committee May examine the following areas:
- Identification of the competencies to be included in the occupational program or the validation of competencies derived from occupational analysis procedures
- Occupational information included in the course
- Employability skills such as interviewing skills included in the course
- Emphasis given to human relations skills
- Provisions for disadvantaged or handicapped students
- Relationship of course content to other courses in the curriculum
- Level of skill development
- Inclusion of information on further education
- Emphasis given to developing respect for tools/equipment/facilities
- Evaluation of students' experience in the course
The type of advice concerning course content provided by the committee or requested by the teacher should reflect the goals of the program. If the program goals are designed to provide for the total education of the student, the advisory committee can provide valuable input or developing a program to meet the students needs.
In a society where accountability in education has become increasingly important, student placement is frequently used as one measure of the success of the vocational program. There are a number of activities through which advisory committees can assist in placing students. These include the following:
- Organizing employer/student conferences
- Notifying teachers or the school placement office of job openings
- Reviewing student follow-up studies
- Coordinating placement services for the state employment service and vocational rehabilitation service.
- Employing co-op and graduates
Community Public Relations
The public relations function of an advisory committee involves its assistance in keeping lines of communication open between your program and the community. The committee can help develop community awareness, as well as stimulating the interest of other individuals in vocational education.
Some possible methods effectively using the advisory committee and public relations include the following:
- Developing community awareness of the vocational facility and its equipment through open-house events
- Having members of the advisory committee and vocational education personnel speak to civic and service clubs in the community
- Developing a format to promote vocational programs through the newspaper, radio, television, and other media
- Establishing and awards program for outstanding students
- Providing input at board meetings
- Planning participation in public funding activities
- Providing feedback to special populations in the local community such as the disadvantage, handicapped, and minorities
Each of these is a critical activity that may have a significant impact on the way in which individuals in the community evaluate the quality of the vocational program.
Equipment and Facilities
A continuing problem in vocational education has been the obsolescence of equipment and facilities. Through the leadership and the team efforts of vocational personnel adn advisory committee members, high quality equipment and facilities can usually be secured.
One of the most important functions of an advisory committee is its recommendations regarding equipment and facilities needed to provide students with the optimum learning environment. The best possible solution needs to be found to fully use the community and school resources.
The advisory committee can be involved with this important function in the following ways:
- Reviewing present equipment and facilities
- Surveying equipment currently in use by industry
- Analyzing projected industrial trends in regard to equipment utilization
- Suggesting replacement of equipment
- Advising on bidding procedures
- Seeking equipment donation
The the administrative function of hiring qualified instructional staff can be supported in several areas by an effective advisory committee. Of course all final decisions concerning recruitment policy, criteria for hiring, and the final selection of an individual still rest with a recognized administrative official.
The advisory committee can engage in the following types of programs staffing in activities:
- Review teacher selection criteria - items such as the quality and quantity of experience, education requirement, teaching certification, references, and the compliance of criteria with recruitment or hiring practices are appropriate.
- Suggest recruitment policy- considerations might involve compliance with local contract(s), availability of placement agencies, the services of placement agencies, and ethics relating to recruitment policies.
- Recommended number and level of staff - this would be an especially important function for an advisory committee working with a new program or new vocational school.
- Review teaching applications and recommended potential candidates - the advisory committee should only be involved in this function to the degree requested by the administration.
Program review is a critical function of an advisory committee. It is not the responsibility of an advisory committee to handle the complete evaluation of an educational program, but the committee's review can be a valuable aid in your programs evaluations. Sometimes program review is the only function of an advisory committee. However, most people view it as an umbrella function, which takes in several other committee functions such as course content advisement and public relations.
Specific program review activities may include the following:
- Evaluating student performance
- Comparing program accomplishments with program objectives
- Making periodic reports to the administration or board
- Formulating recommendations for program improvement
Before the committee undertakes a program review, it should be told how the program effort relates to other program evaluation efforts.Second, the committee needs to review all current and past documents relating to the program evaluation, especially previously written local reports. Third, program goals must be exactly identified, if they are not already written down in an accessible form. Fourth, a data collection instrument that focuses on the specific questions being addressed may need to be developed. This may not be necessary if the data for answering the questions are already available in a report or can be obtained by interviewing selected people.
From this point, the committee may go through a series of sub-processes such as drafting a tentative report, reviewing the report, formulating a final report, and approving the final report. The writing of specific sections may be handled by a subcommittee of several members, with the rewrite and editing handled by one person. The final draft is usually approved and signed by the advisory committee chairperson and members. The final step involves presenting it to the official policy- or decision-making body or person to whom it is addressed. The chairperson or members of the advisory committee should be available to present and discuss the content to the group's reviewing the paper.
Most advisory committees attempt to identify community resources and make them available in support of the vocational program. The advisory committee itself should be considered a community resource because of its assistance in providing course content advice, reviewing the program, and so forth.
There are several functions advisory committees typically undertaken this area. Examples of these functions include the following activities:
- Provide input for field trips- field trips for both students and educators can be arranged through the advisory committee. Open discussion of the purpose of field trip illustrates how students, teachers, and business all can benefit in some way.
- Recommended potential co-op or work experience situation - depending on the purposes of the program, work experience may be arranged for a day, a week, or semester. Many Industries will sponsor work experience programs for teachers.
- Identify personnel from business or industry - the committee can identify persons who can provide in school instruction and counseling on a variety of subjects and current practices. These activities have proven to be highly beneficial to students in groups or individual sessions.
- Assist in obtaining instructional materials - the committee can help identify and obtain materials used in industry and company training programs. Often teachers are invited to industrial training programs or seminars through advisory committee meetings.