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What questions do you have about implementing the “BILT model”?

The National Science Foundation’s ATE (Advanced Technological Education) program recently launched a monthly “Office Hours” webinar series that invites special guests from the ATE community to present on specific topics of interest to technical educators and answer questions. This week, Ann Beheler discussed the “BILT model” along with the chairman of the National Convergence Technology Center’s (CTC) national BILT, Le-Vel Chief Technical Officer Matt Glover.

Ann talked about the essential elements of a successful “BILT model,” including the concepts of allowing employers to co-lead a technical program, conducting annual job skills validation votes, providing a regular meeting forum for employers to share perspectives on industry trends, and aligning curriculum with employer feedback to make sure students learn the skills they need to get hired.  Regular blog readers will be quite familiar with these elements.  You can learn more by downloading our toolkit here or by watching this four-minute video.

Several attendees of the “Office Hours” session asked Ann and Matt questions.  These questions provided a useful glimpse into areas of the “BILT model” that may require further clarification in future presentations.  That is, out of everything Ann talked about, these areas were of most importance to the attendees.

Are there any formal agreements in place between a college and BILT members to set expectations?.
There is no formal agreement.  When employers are first asked to join the BILT, Ann recommends being very clear on expectations, especially when it comes to projected time commitments.  How many meetings do you need them to attend?  How long will those meetings last?  How will the annual job skills vote work?  Even after employers are a part of the BILT, Ann repeatedly resets expectations with the group at the meetings.

How do you find appropriate employers to form a BILT?
The hardest part of the process is assembling those first 10-15 employers.  Once you have a core group of BILT members, then you can use their networks to expand membership and recruit others.  In recruiting the initial team, however, start with groups like your college’s board of trustees or your local chamber of commerce.  You can also use your connections on LinkedIn. Leverage those relationships.  Ann also suggests creating a “target list” of local companies for cold calls.  Maybe your BILT needs someone from finance and none of your contacts have connections in that business.  Figure out which local financial institutions might be good and research who to approach at those companies.  Ann recommends phone calls rather than e-mails when first making your recruitment pitch.  An old-fashioned mailed letter can also cut through the clutter and make a good impression.

How can smaller colleges without the resources to pay for Burning Glass-style reporting gather useful labor market data? 
Once you have your BILT assembled, those employers can help provide this sort of information.  While Department of Labor statistics can be quite detailed and granular, the numbers are often not a forecast of future trends.  Your local workforce development organizations can also likely help provide some numbers.

Do you pay BILT members to participate?
No fees are paid.  At most, the CTC pays for lunches at the annual job skills vote meetings.  Grant funds are also sometimes offered to reimburse travel expenses when the CTC invites BILT members to co-present at national conferences.

Why do BILT members keep coming back and stay engaged?
This connects to what Ann calls the “WIIFM” – the “what’s in it for me?” element.  Each employer will likely have his or her own personal reason to engaging with the BILT.  Some may have purely altruistic motives, a need to “give back” to help current students and the next generation of workers.  Others may have job openings and want access to a pipeline of graduates to hire.  Others may simply enjoy being in the room with peers from other companies to share insights and hear different perspectives.  It’s important that you identify and nurture each employer’s unique “WIFFM.”  No matter their motivation, so long as you work to make the BILT members feel valued and heard they will feel connected and develop a sense of ownership of your program.  That is, once the BILT understand how vital they are to the success of your program, they’ll likely be fully committed.

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