Engagement with business and industry leaders is an essential element for any community college’s IT workforce program. Anyone familiar the National Convergence Technology Center (CTC) knows this – we call these groups business and industry leadership teams, or “BILTs” – is one of our cornerstone beliefs. We preach about the value of a BILT whenever and wherever we can. When programs teach the skills local business and industry need, graduates get jobs.
The CTC has developed a couple of detailed process documents on this topic, one that provides general strategies for recruiting and managing business and industry leaders, one that offers a structure for conducting a “KSA” (knowledge, skills, and abilities) meeting to get curriculum feedback. But our way isn’t the only way. The topic of business and industry meetings was part of the agenda at a recent meeting of Convergence College Network (CCN) faculty and administrators. We were surprised to learn of the many variations and permutations our member schools have adopted in engaging with their local business and industry.
Here’s a recap:
- Meeting times – The CTC suggests scheduling meetings first thing in the morning before BILT members get to the office. Our experience has been that work problems often arise and BILT members often can’t make afternoon meetings. But our CCN schools have had different experiences. One school hosts long lunches at a nice steakhouse. Some programs plan late afternoon dinners off-site, others do early morning breakfasts on campus. Clearly, the unique needs of the BILT determine best where and when meetings happen.
- Meeting format – Each year, the CTC schedules three phone meetings and one in-person meeting with its BILT. Some of the CCN schools, however, also employ a digital element, especially with the KSA discussion. While the CTC advocates a face-to-face voting-style format for KSA feedback, one school convinces its local BILT members to fill out a detailed survey to provide KSA feedback. Another school sends its members KSA lists in advance via email to make the meeting go faster. And then there’s the school that cleverly leveraged another grant to pay for a third party consultant to conduct a detailed job market analysis. We also noticed that some larger programs divide their BILTs by topic or department, while others schedule regular “focus group”-style meetings with smaller sub-groups to address specific curriculum areas.
- Mandate – While the CTC often assumed BILT-style meetings were required by state law across the country, this may not be the case. Some states do indeed demand that community colleges meet with local business and industry leaders. But in other cases, our CCN members had no knowledge of those kinds of state requirements. Instead, the drive for BILT meetings came from their school.
No matter when a BILT meeting a held or how and why it’s managed, the end goal remains the same: teach students the IT skills they need to know to get hired.