While community-based organizations can help link you to the families and students you want to reach, business and industry partners can be valuable as well. They can help you build strong programming by providing speakers or role models, equipment for hands on activities, real world problems to frame your lesson plans, opportunities for field trips and tours, student scholarships, job shadowing, internships, apprenticeships and professionals to serve as coaches, judges of competitions, or tour guides.
Businesses are interested in diversifying their workforce, so your efforts at recruiting girls and underrepresented populations will be strategically important to them. They will want to work with you to build a diverse workforce pipeline that will benefit them in a few years. Think beyond recruiting to building true pipelines for engaging businesses in work-based learning opportunities.
Engaging business and industry on an advisory council is a great way to build work-based learning opportunities for your students and a great way to get business and industry involved with your program. Useful and effective business-school relationships can build pathways for students to have workplace experiences and earn credentials, to engage with mentors, and to learn valuable, relevant skills and technical competencies.
How to establish a business advisory council
The first step is to reach out to all local businesses related to advanced manufacturing in your region. Remember that the members of your council do not need to be located in your town. Any business that would be interested in hiring your graduates would be useful on the advisory council. Once you have identified companies you would like to engage on your council, contact the human resources departments to see if they can connect you to the right person to represent their business.
Recruit individuals who are underrepresented in advanced manufacturing to serve on the council. Their perspective will be very valuable in ensuring your outreach and instructional practices are creating a positive climate for every student. This will also recognize the company’s commitment to workforce diversity and show your support to helping them meet their goals.
While the general business advisory council can inform schools about the industries’ needs, a more targeted group can establish key partnerships that offer mentoring opportunities, workplace experiences, internships, and other relationships that directly involve working with female students.
The first meeting with a business advisory council should have the following agenda items:
- Discussion of the workforce needs and any skills gaps from the business members.
- Include a focus on the gaps they may be experiencing in finding diverse candidates to fill critical positions.
- Share highlights of success stories of women and students of color who have completed your program and gone on to higher education or careers in advanced manufacturing.
- Discussion of current programming and student opportunities that are designed to build workforce readiness
- Share outreach activities you are implementing to increase the participation of girls and students of color in your program. Get input and volunteers for help.
- Share strategies you are implementing to increase the cultural relevance of your instruction to create a positive classroom climate.
- Have the committee reflect on what they are doing to create a welcoming workplace for diverse employees.
- Conduct a brainstorming session on potential ways the company can provide workplace experiences for students. These may include mentoring or internship opportunities, the development of an advanced manufacturing career pathway or curriculum designed to place students at the company, or other opportunities for students to engage in authentic learning opportunities that can lead them to future employment or post-secondary training.
- Show NAPE’s webinar on effective mentoring (https://youtu.be/wJp4Cte6ZMU) and have a discussion about how these strategies can be applied to all work-based learning opportunities for students.
- Suggest that all employers involved in your work-based learning strategy use the NAPE webinar as a training tool with employees that will be working with students.
Businesses can contribute to building career and postsecondary readiness through the following:
- Job Fairs or Conferences: The school may choose to host an event where business representatives and employees from a number of local companies share information about job opportunities and required skills. Ask companies to include women and people of color as representatives at these events.
- Job Shadowing: Companies can organize opportunities for students to shadow employees to enhance career exploration and awareness of the nature of the business and job. Try to match students with job shadowing partners that are of the same gender or race, if possible.
- Internships, cooperative training, work-based learning opportunities or employment for students: Companies can organize opportunities for students to work at their business, so they can fully understand the expectations of the job and the types of work people engage in. These opportunities can include unpaid or paid work; including full-time, part-time or summer employment. Be sure that students are aware of workplace policies and who to report any issues that may arise if they experience a hostile work environment.
- Mentoring and tutoring programs for students: Employers can provide opportunities for employees to serve as mentors and tutors to students, helping improve academic skills as well as social, emotional, and workplace and employability skills. Try to place students with mentors that look like them and who have completed NAPE’s mentor training webinar (https://youtu.be/wJp4Cte6ZMU).
- Promoting student commitment to being drug free. Together, schools and businesses can raise awareness about the dangers of drug and alcohol use and the consequences for using drugs or alcohol on future job opportunities. They can develop drug free agreements that reward students for maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
- Informing curriculum design and development: Business council members can review curriculum materials for technical content accuracy, identify knowledge or skills competency levels and performance standards, help districts secure instructional materials, donate equipment or space for specialized training, build pathways to postsecondary programs in advanced manufacturing, and support schools seeking a STEM designation.
- Engaging educators: Businesses can help teachers define how curriculum is relevant in the workplace by providing teachers and other district personnel with information and experiences relative to the businesses in the community. It could include activities like teacher externships and other learning opportunities for educators. Learn from businesses who have been successful in recruiting a diverse workforce and the strategies they have used to retain them. You can translate these same activities to your school and program.
The Advisory Council can also work collaboratively to create a marketing plan to connect families to information about in-demand careers in advanced manufacturing and to engage postsecondary and workforce development organizations to become active members in developing a strong workforce pipeline.