Functional Advisory Boards

Advisory boards are an essential part of Environmental Workforce Development and Job Training (EWDJT) programs. They are not used to evaluate program performance, direct policy, or approve activities and staff expenditures. The best EWDJT grantees use advisory boards as working committees to provide guidance, experience, and networks for many of its activities.

Advisory board members bring many benefits to an EWDJT program.

  • Act as a link to community organizations and residents.
  • Provide a pathway into city and state government.
  • Consult as to services and leveraging opportunities available to the EWDJT program.
  • Advise on social services and additional training opportunities available to EWDJT participants.
  • Interface with potential employers and employment opportunities.
  • Act as mentors and role models for program participants.
  • Provide guidance on local certifications, skills, and training needs.

When recruiting advisory board members, it is important to understand the attributes they will bring to the table. Advisory board members are not necessarily political or prominent members of the community. Examples of working advisory board members include the types of representation below.

  • City government employees (offices of planning, economic development, community relations, socials services, mayor’s office)
  • Community organizers, church leaders, and informal community leaders
  • Organized labor representatives
  • Remediation contractors
  • Employment and temporary employment firms
  • Environmental trainers and consultants (college representatives, if applicable)
  • Workforce Investment Boards (WIBs), OneStop organizations, or other employment service organizations
  • Program graduates or environmental remediation workers

Each invitation should be individualized and include:

  • The specific purpose for their selection and importance to the program.
  • Advisement that they will be working as an active member of an EWDJT advisory board providing training and job opportunities to community residents.
  • The purpose and objectives of the program, background information, attributes, and contributions they will bring to the program.
  • The frequency of meetings.
  • Membership responsibilities.

The best way to build advisory boards is to rely on recommendations as the labor market assessment is being performed and as initial contacts are made during the discovery phase of program planning. Program advisors often become program partners and leverage resources, so it is best to begin forming the advisory board as part of the grant writing process.

EWDJT advisory board membership is less formal than in larger organizations. Participation may be dynamic with additions and subtractions occurring depending on program needs and participant interest. With an emphasis on job placement, it is preferable to have several employer representatives on the board. Fifteen board members allows for illness and schedule conflicts. Those not participating should be asked for substitutes or replacements.

The frequency of the meetings may vary from semiannually to quarterly. Additional working committees and individual contributions may supplement regular meetings.

Building an Effective Advisory Committee, published by the Department of Education’s Mentoring Resource Center, examines advisory boards and their impact to nonprofit organizations. While the publication is targeted to education, it is equally applicable to EWDJT programs.

For more information about how to build a quality advisory board, see Effective Advisory Committees, In Brief: Fast Facts for Policy and Practice (ERIC# ED463411).

Most partners will exchange resources that benefit each other. These in-kind donations, or traded services, are an excellent avenue for seeking the elements that will contribute to the successful operation of the EWDJT program. Examples of shared resources may include

  • Training
  • Screening and testing services
  • Office space, laboratories, or classrooms
  • Personnel with specialized skills
  • Equipment
  • Facilities
  • Instructional materials

In-kind partnerships make better use of infrastructure and greatly reduce operating costs for both partners. Partnering, combining, and affiliating with other organizations nearly always has the potential for in-kind exchanges that benefits everyone.