Engaging Your Business Experts

At the recent WASTC Winter ICT Educators’ Conference, the National Convergence Technology Center (CTC) hosted a panel discussion on its successful “BILT” (Business and Industry Leadership Team) model that helps energize relationships between community college educators and industry experts. Most community college programs have traditional advisory boards in which business leaders guide programs via annual meetings, but the BILT model calls for deeper engagement in which the business leaders truly co-lead through quarterly discussions and specific curriculum feedback.

Here are a few highlights from that session, moderated by National CTC Director Ann Beheler, that featured Le-Vel CTO (and National CTC BILT Chairman) Matt Glover and NetApp’s Strategic Program Manager for Guiding Coalition and Academic Alliances, Mercedes Adams.

  • Value your BILT community – It’s essential you follow the guidance of your industry experts so they feel heard. When they make a recommendation, report back on the results. And if you can’t implement what the BILT suggests, be sure to explain why. Don’t just ignore their feedback.
  • Meet often – An annual lunch meeting isn’t enough to create deep engagement. The National CTC’s BILT meets quarterly: three times on the phone for 90 minutes and then a longer in-person meeting to discuss job skills. Repeated interaction like this leads to more collaboration and a stronger connection between BILT members and your program.
  • Validate job skills – Once a year the BILT should go through all of the job skills and abilities one by one to make sure they’re as current as possible. That is, guide your BILT to answer in detail the question “What would a new graduate need to know to get an entry-level position?” For the National CTC, the IT industry evolves rapidly, which is why the BILT’s expertise is so essential. Over time, new skills and abilities become more important and older ones grow obsolete. The result of this validation process is a spreadsheet that provides a concrete document educators can use to map skills and abilities to courses. The goal is to ensure skills the BILT recommends are covered somewhere in the program.
  • Invite faculty members to attend – It’s more effective for educators to hear about industry trends directly from the experts. There is no intermediary.  Changing curriculum can be a painful, time-consuming process. Detailed, specific recommendations and insights from experienced, successful BILT members can help justify these changes and reduce institutional resistance.
  • Find ways to engage the BILT beyond the meetings – NetApp is a textbook example of a company that’s supported the National CTC in a variety of ways.  In addition to attending BILT meetings, NetApp has provided an instructor (and textbooks) for a professional development event, hosted faculty members on a special VIP tour of a data center, delivered keynote presentations at conferences and special events, and helped facilitate a one-hour webinar on IT workplace change. Some of your BILT members may be willing to do more than just attend meetings. These extra activities, of course, further deepens the engagement and cements the bond to your program.

To learn more about the BILT model, download a brochure here or watch a presentation here.

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