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ASC Proceedings of the 42nd Annual Conference
Colorado State University Fort Collins, Colorado
April 20 - 22, 2006                 


Benchmarking Industry Advisory Committees


 Richard Burt, Ph.D.; James C. Smith, D. Engr., PE;

and John Mayfield, MSCM

Texas A&M University

College Station, Texas


Programs of construction higher education, accredited by the American Council for Construction Education (ACCE), are required to have “an advisory committee” with construction industry members.  This paper examines the response to this accreditation requirement, based on a survey from 36 accredited construction programs.  The responses show a wide variation as to policies and procedures adopted by construction programs.  The range of responses suggests some “best practices” which may be useful to all programs as the use of advisory committees matures.  The data should prove helpful to new construction programs in establishing their advisory committees and to more mature programs seeking to enhance their advisory committees.


Key Words:  Advisory Committees, ACCE Accredited Programs, Construction Programs, Construction Industry.





The American Council for Construction Education (ACCE) is the accrediting body for programs of construction higher education.  In its standards for accreditation, Document 103, Section 7.1, ACCE states:

“Construction is a practice oriented profession.  Therefore it is imperative that an advisory committee, consisting of representatives from the construction industry, be actively involved in an advisory role for the construction program.

The committee should meet at least once a year for the purpose of advising and assisting the development and enhancement of the program.  Although the composition of the committee should change periodically, there should be provisions to insure continuity.  The composition of the committee should be representative of the potential employers of the graduates of the construction program.”


This study was undertaken to determine the nature of the advisory committees (AC’s) which have been created by construction programs in response to this accreditation standard.  The Study sought to determine the range of practices and procedures used by advisory committees.  The data should prove helpful to new construction programs in establishing their advisory committees and to more mature programs seeking to enhance their advisory committee operations.


Advisory committees have been the subject of limited research in recent years.  In 1999, Dr. W.E. Badger wrote of the experience at Arizona State University in creating their Advisory Committee (Badger, et al); while Dr. T. Hynds reported on a survey somewhat similar to this study in 2001 (Hynds, et al).  In 2000, the Education Committee of the Associated General Contractors undertook an effort to write guidelines for the creation of advisory committees, culminating in published guidelines in 2002 (Associated General Contractors).





This study was undertaken by means of a survey questionnaire.  (The questionnaire is in Appendix A.)  This questionnaire was first sent to every ACCE accredited program by email.  After allowing a four-week period of time for email response, those schools which had not responded were contacted by telephone.  In all, thirty-six schools responded to the survey.  Since there are fifty-four baccalaureate degree programs accredited by ACCE, this represents a 67% response.  The results were then tabulated in a Microsoft Excel spread sheet.  The results are summarized in this paper, divided into sections based upon the nature of the survey questions themselves.







It was decided that the logical place to begin this study was to survey the “demographic” data on the ACCE programs themselves.  This would set the context in which the AC’s operate.  Participants were questioned on the population of their undergraduate and graduate (where applicable) programs, the number of both types of students graduating annually, the percent of those graduates gainfully employed, and the percent employed by companies which have a representative member in the AC.  Descriptive statistics of these results were calculated; they are presented in Table 1.  This should serve as a means for various programs to gauge their relationship to the population as a whole.  


Table 1

Demographics of Responding Construction Programs


Number of Students Enrolled

Number of Students Graduating Annually
































Table 2 shows the percentage of graduates who were employed immediately following graduation.  The results show strong demand for construction graduates with many programs reporting 100% employment. 


Table 2

Employment of Construction Graduates


Percentage of graduates employed

Percentage employed by member companies of AC’s





















Advisory Committee Names


The next set of questions was designed to begin to determine the nature of the various AC’s by studying the names chosen for these organizations.  Respondents were asked for the name of their AC.  These names were then analyzed for the frequency of the following keywords:  “Advisory”, “Construction”, and “Industry.”  The names were also separated into three categories, “Board”, “Committee”, and “Council” depending upon how each was named.  Of all of the names given, only one did not contain the term “Advisory.”  Table 3 gives the frequency of usage of keywords used to describe the nature and structure of the AC.



Table 3

Frequency of Usage of Keywords Describing Nature and Organization of

Advisory Committee’s


Nature of Committee

Nature of Organization

Key word

Frequency of Usage


Frequency of Usage


















While the ACCE standard requires an “advisory committee”, only 23% of the programs use the word “committee” in naming their advisory organization.  It is also interesting that half of the responding program advisory organizations do not have the word “construction” in the title.




A number of the questions sought to determine information about the membership of the AC’s.  Approximately three-quarters of the responding programs reported that they allowed different categories of membership.  There did not appear to be a consensus on the definition of categories of membership.  The most common categories were:











Among the other categories of membership reported were:



General Contractor


Executive Board


Professional Association






Trade Association






Recent Graduate


Construction Management


None of the responding programs reported that they restricted membership of the AC’s to Alumni only.  The number of members of the AC’s varied considerably.  Membership numbers went from 7 to 400, with the average around 37 members.


The next area of interest is how the typical AC is financed.  In particular, the survey sought to determine the frequency and amount of dues being required of AC members.  Also gathered from this set of questions is information on the different types of memberships, when applicable, available in the typical AC.  Approximately three-quarters of the responding programs stated that they did not have membership dues.  Of the responding institutions that stated they collected dues, there appeared little consensus.  The main difference in membership dues structure was between individual and corporate membership.  Individual membership dues varied between $50 and $1000.  Company or Corporate membership varied between $350 and $5000.  It was interesting to note that the three programs with highest AC membership all have membership dues. 






The next set of questions sought to determine the “structure” of the AC’s.  The level of formality of the AC’s could be inferred, at least in part, by the presence of written bylaws.  The existence and scope of term limits for members also provides some enlightenment as to the structure of the typical AC and the continuity as required by the ACCE standard.  Almost three-quarters of the responding programs stated they had written by-laws.  Term limits on membership were only set by 42% of the responding programs and these varied from 1 to 5 years, with the average being about 3 years.

A series of questions sought to compile data on the regularity and duration of AC meetings.  Almost all of the responding programs held at least one meeting of the AC per academic year.  Approximately 63% of the respondents held two meetings per year; one in the fall and spring semesters.  These meetings were usually held on campus and on average lasted for four hours.


Role of the Advisory Committee


Having examined the structure of the typical AC with the questions listed thus far, the survey then turned to the areas in which the AC provides tangible assistance to the program.  The survey questions specifically asked about AC roles in research, fundraising, curriculum, and student placement.  The percentages of those responding in the affirmative for each of the categories listed are shown in Table 4. 


Table 4


Percentage of Advisory Committee’s Involvement in Certain Areas














Percentage of AC's with role in:







Role of the Faculty


The next question solicited information on what role the faculty members of respondent programs had with their respective AC’s.  The four most common roles that Faculty played in Advisory Committees were: members of the AC (40%), attendance at meetings (37%), general interaction with AC members (11%) and observer at AC meetings (11%).


Advisory Committee Operations


                The final set of questions asked for input on the valuable contributions to the program by the AC and the most difficult aspects of managing the AC.  In both cases, the questions were fill-in-the-blank, not requiring the respondent to select from a list.  Some subjective analysis was done to combine some responses; for example, employment and placement were combined into one response called placement.  The results are presented in Figures 1 and 2.


Figure 1: Valuable Contributions to the Construction Program by the Advisory Committee


Figure 2: Most difficult aspects of managing the Advisory Committee




Some topical conclusions are included throughout the body of this paper.    In summary:


Given the wide range of demographic data, with programs ranging from 15 to 722 undergraduate students and 4 to 150 graduates per year, it is not surprising that the research findings likewise vary substantially.


The ACCE standard requiring “advisory committees” is proscriptive and leaves substantial room for interpretation by individual programs.  There is not even consensus on what to call these committees.


Only one-fourth of the committees surveyed had any formal funding mechanism [dues].  The larger programs with greater committee representation seemed more willing to adopt a dues structure.


Contributing to curriculum content was the predominant activity of advisory committees, followed by some form of fund-raising activity.


There some excellent opportunities for further research on ACCE advisory committees to make the data sets more complete and to further mine the data; in particular no correlation statistics have been calculated thus far.  Expanding the research to include the Construction Engineering programs accredited by ABET might also add to the body of knowledge.



Post Mortem


The results of this research were presented to program leaders at the ACCE national meeting in Mobile, AL, in February 2004.  After extensive discussion, program leaders, in work group sessions, brainstormed a list of activities that might be appropriate for AC’s; this list is attached at Appendix B.





American Council for Construction Education (2005).  Document 103:  Standards and Criteria for Accreditation of Postsecondary Construction Education Degree Programs[WWW Document].  URL


Associated General Contractors (2002).  Guidelines for the Development of Effective Industry Advisory Boards.  Final Approved, January 20, 2002.


Badger, W.E. and Pruitt, J.D. (1999).  The industry advisory council and the Del E. Webb School of Construction at Arizona State University.  Associated Schools of Construction; International Journal of Construction Education and Research (Vol. 4, No. 2, pp136-151.)


Hynds, T. and Smith J. (2001).  Industry Advisory Councils of Undergraduate Construction Programs: A Comparative Study of Common Practices.  Associated Schools of Construction; International Journal of Construction Education and Research ( Vol. 6, No. 2, pp103-112.)


Tener, Robert K. (1996).  Industry-University Partnerships for Construction Engineering Education.  American Society of Civil Engineers; Journal of Professional Issues in Engineering Education and Practice(Vol. 122, Issue 4. pp156-162)



Appendix A.


Advisory Committee (AC) Questionnaire





Appendix B






[Developed at the Program Leader’s session at the ACCE meeting in Mobile, Feb 26, 2004.]


  1. Faculty make presentations on teaching innovations or research projects.


  1. Have student competition teams make practice presentations or repeat the presentation done in actual competition with Advisory Committee [AC] member jury.


  1. Review curriculum.  This could take many forms—review individual courses, review course groups, have industry bring up contemporary topics [e.g., ethics, diversity, green construction, SWPPP, current IT uses, etc.] and assess the curriculum coverage.


  1. Golf Tournament, hold in conjunction with a meeting.  Attend University sporting event.


  1. Have Advisory Committee members participate in a Strategic Planning session for the program.


  1. Have Advisory Committee members conduct exit surveys or participate in focus groups with structured agenda to solicit student feedback on all aspects of the program.  This requires follow-up by the members to write up their findings; program must respond to the AC member’s findings.


  1. Have Advisory Committee members act as jurors for the student capstone projects; or present student capstone projects at an Advisory Committee meeting.


  1. Have an Advisory Committee Speaker’s Bureau.


  1. Have Advisory Committee members sit in on some classes and provide faculty evaluation.


  1. Have Advisory Committee set up a process and select outstanding graduates in each graduating class.


  1. Have Advisory Committee members conduct mock, practice job interviews.


  1. Have Advisory Committee members function in a role play situation for students, with members assuming the role of AE, owner, subcontractor, OSHA, etc.


  1. Arrange for Advisory Committee officers to meet with the Provost and/or the President on a periodic [yearly?] basis as a courtesy and to promote the program.


  1. Have AC sponsor special events on current topics—ethics, diversity, green construction, alternative delivery systems, SWPPP, etc.  Events can be structured as desired to involve students, faculty and AC members.  Events might be panel discussions, speaker with Q&A, focus groups, etc.


  1. Have AC sponsor a Hall of Fame to recognize outstanding students, faculty, or industry.