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Building an Effective Program Advisory Committee

Why do Advisory Committees Matter?

Program Advisory Committees (PACs) are essential for dialogue between education programs, industry, and community partners to ensure that programs are current, relevant, competitive, and forward-looking (Vancouver Community College, 2016). While PACs bring many benefits, starting and maintaining a PAC often takes a back seat to more pressing day-to-day demands of program operation and delivery (U.S Department of Education, 2008). This blog introduces the advantages of having an effective PAC, followed by tips to empower you to get started. PACs offer a wide range of functions that help programs build on their strengths while responding to the changing needs of learners, industry, and communities for continuous program enhancement.

Vancouver Island University VIU’s Procedure 31.09.001 Program Advisory Committees

Procedure 31.09.001 describes that the primary function of a PAC is to make recommendations relating to the development and evaluation of programs, curricula, and services. Overall, PACs play a role in advising, assisting, and advocating in the following ways:

  • provide guidance on trends to influence curriculum and the employability of program graduates;
  • maintain a strong connection with employers for collaboration to place students within the industry for meaningful work;
  • support work-based student learning opportunities (for instance, work experiences, apprenticeships, provide tours and field trip etc.);
  • assist in developing support for the program (for example, sponsoring learning events and conferences and acquiring additional resources);
  • help in recruiting instructors, new students, and new advisory committee members;
  • provide guidance and assistance on new projects and program development;
  • evaluate programs to ensure that they are up-to-date with current technology and appropriate equipment;
  • promote and provide faculty with professional development opportunities for upgrading and re-training;
  • research employment needs to help verify the validity of requests for new programs or the updating or expansion of existing ones;
  • advocate for transfer arrangements to other institutions offering parallel or advanced programs;
  • identify scholarships and bursary opportunities; and
  • provide insight into opportunities for collaboration and research (U.S. Department of Education, 2008; Vancouver Community College, 2016; Vancouver Island University, 2001).

This list is not all-inclusive; it is intended to provide ideas to help you refine your PAC mission. Establishing your purpose is the first step in developing your PAC.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Steps for Developing your PAC

  1. Define Purpose
  2. Recruit
  3. Structure
  4. Prepare

1. Define Purpose

Well-constructed PACs with a clear mission can help you achieve your program goals. The following questions may help you fine-tune your PAC’s purpose:

  • Do you want your PAC to advocate for your program to increase its visibility for recruitment?
  • Do you want the committee to take on a specific task to support your activities?
  • Do you need people with specific skills to help get things done (U.S. Department of Education, 2008)?

2. Recruit

Aim to recruit between 12 to 20 PAC members. Recruit members from relevant businesses, industries and communities that fit your purpose. It’s natural to start with people you know and those who have expressed interest in being involved. This is a good start, but you also need to be strategic and reach out to represent the skills you need and the diversity of the communities you serve. VIU’s Procedure 31.09.001 suggests that advisory committees may represent the following groups:

  • employer associations
  • unions – external trade and professional
  • government agencies
  • graduates of the program
  • individual employers
  • official certifying bodies
  • special interest groups
  • University representatives

For an example see Resource Management and Protection.

Recruiting may be by email and text, but you will likely need to call and visit people in person. Then follow up. Start early, as the process can be time-consuming. Develop a simple written application or database to gather basic information with contact details, the person’s skills, interests, and motivations. Be prepared to answer questions about what PAC members are being asked to do, such as how often you will meet, when, and the member’s role.

3. Prepare

Prepare members for their roles and the work they will do for the program. Provide a program overview and or facility tour. Clarify the extent and limits of their recommendations and opinions so that the PAC team can recognize how the work is relevant.  For meetings, always set an agenda and send it to PAC members at least a week in advance so people can come prepared.

4. Meet

Begin by providing time to get to know each other with introductions and engaging activities. Work together to create guidelines for communication and a meeting structure for how decisions are made. Make the scope of work clear, so members know how they will be involved. Have the group make measurable objectives or goals and set priorities. Provide meeting minutes as described in Procedure 31.09.001 to follow up and maintain communication with the PAC.

Tips for Maintaining your Advisory Committee

A PAC will need ongoing communications to nurture and maintain relationships. Schedule regular meetings (at least once annually) in a structure that works for everyone. Plan to provide regular updates about your program and let members know how their work has helped the program progress. Lastly, thank members in different ways for the work they are doing (in person, thank you cards, email, on your program website, and or social media).

In sum, to effectively construct your PAC to ensure that your program is relevant and forward-looking:  consider your purpose, carefully select members, prepare members, maintain relationships, and recognize members’ contributions.

Need Support?

  • Reach out to your program assistants for PAC records, and support with invitations, agendas, room reservations, catering, parking passes and meeting minutes.
  • Connect with other programs, and attend another program PAC, for ideas and strategies. For instance, attend the VIU Horticulture PAC on February 17, 2023.
  • Consult with Jessica Gemella (, Curriculum, Teaching and Learning Specialist (Acting).


U.S. Department of Education. (2008). Mentoring resource center factsheet: Building an effective advisory committee.  

Vancouver Community College. (2016). Policy – Vancouver Community College.

Vancouver Island University. (2001). Procedure 31.09.001 program advisory committees.

South Dakota Department of Education. (2019). CTE program advisory committee handbook.