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BILT (Part 1): Critical to Student Success

Having a business council working with colleges is not a new concept. However, the Convergence Technology Center’s approach puts business in a co-leadership role rather than just a business approval role. The approach is key to ensuring that the students educated/trained by our partner educational institutions are “workforce ready” to be hired by the businesses. As one BILT (Business and Industry Leadership Team) member mentioned, advice can be ignored, eroding business commitment; when businesses know they are actual partners, their engagement is much stronger.

Currently 96% of college and university chief academic officers said they are extremely or somewhat confident in their institution’s ability to prepare students for success in the workforce, but just 11% of business leaders strongly agree today’s college graduates have the skills and competencies that their business needs.*

Typical business advisory councils may meet just once a year, have a mixed level of knowledge in membership, only review a program rather than lead it and members often have to split their time between multiple colleges that each have their own advisory boards. And, it’s not feasible for the strongest people to participate on 10 or more advisory councils for the 10 or more colleges in metropolitan areas, for example. This type of council creates an environment where faculty members develop their own programs, often in a vacuum, and get their required rubber-stamped “looks great!” from businesses but doesn’t actually lead to an efficient process that hires graduates. The advisory approach also results in businesses being less engaged in general.

However, the strategy of the National Business and Industry Leadership Team (BILT) for the National CTC ensures better-aligned education for a readily employable pool of potential new-hires. This is achieved by giving businesses a bigger say in what and how curriculum is prepared and guiding multiple colleges at once, especially when there are multiple colleges in a geographic region. Faculty then take the BILT guidance and apply it to course and program modifications.

BILT membership is composed of high-level technical executives, first line managers, technicians and HR representatives, typically meeting at least 3 if not 4 times annually. Less frequent meetings can easily translate to “out of sight, out of mind.”

This BILT co-leadership model has guided the work of the Convergence Technology Center for over 10 years on a national level. But, it is also equally important that BILTs be formed on a local or regional level to add to, delete from or otherwise modify the list of knowledge, skills, and abilities that the national BILT priorities.

Whether you’re currently participating with us on the National BILT or not, here are reasons why your council should consider the BILT co-leadership approach:

  • Local businesses are more specific to your area.
  • Current relevant job knowledge, skills and abilities needed in your area must be validated by the businesses that are hiring in your students’ market.
  • Businesses can forecasts their need of positions and growth within their own companies, and these forecasts can help administrators determine scheduling needs.
  • Internships and job shadowing are easier for students to obtain when a network is already in place giving them an early exposure to the business perspective.
  • Businesses can provide specific expertise in the direction of your educational institution’s information technology/communication labs.

IT is always changing and so this transformation must be addressed through the unity of businesses and colleges, not be an after-thought. Skills students are learning today may not be needed tomorrow.



*John M. Eger, “Business and Education Executives Just Don’t See Eye to Eye”, Huffington Post, 04/12/2014 originally presented by John Colburn, Director , Skills for America’s Future, Aspen Institute 01/20/15

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