Invalid username and/or password.

Forgot Password?

Header Logo


Pennsylvania ACTE Spring 2016 Newsletter


Setting Up Advisory Councils for Success


A high-quality CTE program needs close ties with business, industry, and labor. That relationship is best fostered through a strong advisory committee. But how do we know what an excellent advisory committee should look like?

As the director of Technology Centers that Work for the Southern Regional Education Board, Lynda Jackson has assessed numerous advisory committees and seen some of the struggles and best practices from Career and Technology Centers (CTCs) as they work with advisory committees.

“Advisory councils are so important,” she says. “They foster good communication for a work-based program. Sometimes we as career and technical educators get so hung up in silos that we don’t see the system and how it all works together.”

In the three years that Jackson has been assessing advisory committees she has found that, “there are good ones, but everyone struggles with certain aspects.”  And it is through those common pitfalls that CTCs can learn what to do.

The Three As

Jackson describes an ideal advisory committee having three roles: advocate, assist, and advise.

“You don’t want to have the committee only advocate for you and be a PR person to get people to send their kids to your school. You also don’t just want them to give you resources,” she says.

She also said that CTCs that use committees simply to assist by supplying resources to the school will burn out committee members quickly. 

“The worst role for CTCs is the advise,” Jackson cautions. “Asking committee members, ‘How can we do this? How do we teach the curriculum? What should we do with instruction?’ These are hard questions for CTCs to ask. But if you don’t have all three roles, you do not have an effective committee.”

Common Committee Struggles 

According to Jackson, one of the main problems CTCs face is the inability to sustain successful committees over a period of time.  

“Over a period of time, the committee looses direction and focus,” she explains. “A lot of times, a committee gets started and then fizzles out. They get a little complacent. They forget to have meetings and then it is no longer part of the process.”

Jackson says that CTCs need to know that advisory committees can keep centers abreast of new technologies, job trends, and equipment so students are ready. For example, at one of Jackson’s schools, she had an advisory committee do a walkthrough of the CTC’s auto-tech program. During the visit, committee members from an area auto shop told her the lifts at the school were out of compliance and that her students were not being trained how to use the latest lifts. “The student looses in the long run when you don’t have businesses advising you,” she says. 

Another common struggle for advisory committees is the disconnect from business and the corporate world. “Businesses want their input to be used for improvement,” she says. “These folks don’t mind coming to the table, but they operate differently than folks in the education sector. They need the committee work to be meaningful and useful. This is why slowly, over time, committees don’t produce good results.”

Best Practices for Advisory Committees

In Jackson’s study of advisory councils, she has seen numerous best practices that can help committees. 

“For many CTCs with good advisory committees, they immediately start with the advise component. Instructors are sharing their curriculum maps, syllabi, and student work. They are asking committee members, ‘If a student brought this to you would you hire them? Why or why not? What can we do better?’”

In the advocate role, Jackson tells CTC directors that they should have a site-wide advisory committee that can help with media relations, marketing, and other communications. “Invite presidents of boards and chamber of commerce members. Then help them talk in a positive way about your site,” she says.

The assist role is where Jackson sees that CTCs can give back to the community involved with the committees. CTCs can adopt businesses and help them with community service causes. For example, Jackson has seen a culinary program adopt an assisted living center to prepare residents’ meals.

When advisory committees loose steam, Jackson has seen many set new goals every year. The committees then use their meetings to plan and strategize to meet those goals. “You need a goal for the year with an action plan that includes the advisory committee’s input. This way you are always growing and getting better,” she explains. 

Another way to foster accountability is to have a teacher’s work with an advisory committee be a part of a teacher’s growth plan. According to Jackson, if a teacher were to have a goal of having her seniors job shadow, she could include the advisory committee as part of her action plan to reach that goal.

But the one common thread she has seen in all good advisory committees is strong leadership at the center. “What really good advisory committees do have in common is a leader that advocates for committees. The leader has a center-wide advisory committee along with the committees for each program,” she explains. 

According to Jackson, leadership may not feel comfortable opening up their school to scrutiny from the outside, but “educators need to see that this benefits students the most. It creates best practices for our programs and prepares our students for the next step. Seventy percent of jobs are through connections. What better way to connect those students than through partnerships at the school to get students to that next level and get them that job.”



Research For Motivation: How Two Teachers Made Research a Motivation Strategy


“There is a natural motivation in career and technical education,” says Mike Deatrick, Diesel Technology Instructor for York County School of Technology. “This is where they see what is going to happen in the real world and it pushes them to do better.” 

Mike Holtzinger, heavy equipment instructor at Central Pennsylvania Institute of Science and Technology also sees that drive in his students in addition to there ever-increasing use of research. “Students have no issue looking things up and finding things out,” he says.  “They always have their cell phones. During lessons someone asks a question and they pull out their phones and Google it. So I have them use those research skills to become smarter about the trade.”

Combining the inherent motivational qualities of CTE with the growing research students can do, Holtzinger and Deatrick developed several projects to keep students motivated in in their classrooms. 

Holtzinger’s Plan

Holtzinger uses the winter months when his students can’t be out on the equipment to have them research and develop their own businesses. Each student must develop a plan, figure out man power needs, machinery requirements, and calculate payments for operations. 

“I just let them run with it,” he says. “However they want to do it. We do not worry about research techniques. They just need to go out and get info about starting their own business. ”

For example, Holtzinger says a student might do research and find a machine he needs costs $175,000.  “Now that student has to figure out how to pay for it. He needs to figure out fuel calculations and hourly payments to pay people,” he explains. Then he needs to figure out how many hours he can work the machine and how many hours of fuel you can burn. It is long, drawn out, and detailed.”

Holtzinger finds that his students can take this experience and benefit from it in the workplace. “Out in the real world, these students know the cost of equipment and have a respect for the business. They see that their boss has 50 pieces of equipment and they know what it costs to be a business owner. They have more respect and don’t fool around.”

Deatrick’s Plan

Deatrick also does a research project with students during when they are not working on cars. He has students develop maintenance plans for trucking companies. “They have to research what the company does. Is it highway miles? Do they run a lot of miles? Do the trucks idle a lot?,” he says. “From this they figure out a service model.” Then Deatrick has them present their recommendations. 

Another thing Deatrick is doing this year to help motivate students is the use of time cards and invoicing. “This is allowing students to write better and more realistic work orders,” he says. He said there are times when students might need to write out problems they experienced that made a job take longer than the allotted time.

Deatrick’s motivation comes from treating his classroom like an actual shop. “As a CTC teacher, my responsibility is to get them a job with a future in it for them. So my students’ shop runs like the one I ran before I started teaching.”

Plan Successes

Holtzinger’s and Deatrick’s successes with motivational research practices got them nominated to participate in a professional academy at Penn State.  Deatrick’s students now provide the maintenance plans that Holtizinger’s students need to complete their business development. “I liked the idea of other students using our work,” Deatrick says.

“This project is definitely something that fits into all the trades in CTE,” says Holtzinger. “Every trade, whether it is cosmetology, HVAC, or welding could easily go into business for themselves and would benefit from developing a business plan.”

“The end result of all of this research is the motivation,” says Holtzinger. “They want to be better students. This activity is more than a piece of curriculum. It opens their eyes.”

Deatrick also expresses how important research projects like these are for CTE students. “Who makes more money? The one answering the questions or the one asking the questions? They will be more successful and valuable if they have the drive to find answers.”




Working with the Workforce Investment Board: Intersecting Education and Employment


Career and Technical Educators and Workforce Development Boards are a natural fit. Just see what the Lehigh Valley Workforce Development Board has done with CTE.

The workforce development board’s role is important for CTE professionals to understand. “We are the clearinghouse,” says Gina Kormanik, director of business development for the Lehigh Valley Workforce Investment Board. “We bring together employers and we ask them what do you need? We are the clearinghouse of where the skills are and where the jobs are.”

Cindy Evans, youth program manager for the Board says they use their knowledge from employers to help direct CTC programs. “We know that career and technical schools need to keep their manufacturing and mechatronics programs open. We can then direct our funding and grants towards those CTC programs.”

Evans adds that the Workforce Development Board can also help lead career pathways. “We are in the middle of business and education. We help make them talk the same language. We make sure there are best practices taking place on both sides.”

 The Partnership in Action

Once everyone understands the role the workforce development board plays, the work can begin.

“The workforce development board works with education to provide a world-class workforce. We have to ensure that the education is aligned with the economic focus of employers,” says Kormanik. “We align our strategic plan with the education provider’s strategic plan,” Evans adds.

One of the ways the Lehigh Board has brought education and employment together is through a rotating internship network. Kormanik explains that it started with B Braun Medical and their desire to fulfill their career pipeline. In the first year, seven students from one school went to one employer. Now in its third year, the internship network includes 15 students from three schools and nine businesses.

 “It is like a co-op on steroids,” says Kormanik. “The students get to see engineering from different types of companies.”

Kormanik explains that the rotational internship was “getting all the pieces together in the perfect storm. It is a huge investment in employers’ time, but it creates technically skilled employees for the future.” 

For example, Kormanik says B Braun Medical hired their first intern immediately to fill in for someone on medical leave. That student is now supervising others and going to school on their dime. 

Another way the Board and CTCs collaborate in Lehigh Valley is that the Board shares office space with Lehigh Career and Technical Institute (LCTI). “Employers are in this building every single day. LCTI has direct access to businesses. It is a win win,” says Evans 

“It is a one-stop employment center,” adds Kormanik. “Someone from the business community can walk around and see that LCTI is here with us. Then there is no excuse to not work together. We know what each other is doing. ”

For example, one time LCTI had a number of students they could not place in a program. Because the Board was right there, Evans knew about the situation and got speakers to help them have a career exploration program. “Ï needed 10 businesses and I had more than enough in one afternoon of phone calls,” she says.

Evans also says that the Board’s involvement extends to the comprehensive high schools. There is a staff person from the Board in each of the area’s largest high schools. They are providing professional development workshops and visits for counselors to area businesses.  Evans says that if an at-risk student visits them at the school just one time, they are 75% more likely to stay in school. If they visit three times, they will stay in school.

For CTCs looking to work with their local Workforce Development Board, Kormanik and Evans both agree that it is a great way for CTCs to seek career support for their students. “We are your partner,” says Evans. “This is important. Our partnerships bring our communities greater economic development.”


Join Sq


Login above for access to member information


Join/Renew · Learn About Membership


Divisions · Regions · State Associations

Recommended Stories

What We Do

ACTE is committed to enhancing the job performance and satisfaction of its members; to increasing public awareness and appreciation for career and technical programs; and to assuring growth in local, state and federal funding for these programs by communicating and working with legislators and government leaders.



ACTE Calendar

Friday, March 23, 2018

MVA Convention

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

New Mexico ACTE Summer Conference(1)

View All Events