Article

Education

Utah Business Staff

August 1, 2012

TIETJEN: I conceptually support Prosperity 2020, but I don’t know how to action it. I kind of have a marketing mind set, so let me explain concisely, if I can, my concern. From a marketing standpoint, you go out and say, what are you trying to do? What’s the marketplace? And perhaps we’ve identified all those jobs that are going to be around in 2020. If we could, that would be very, very helpful. Are they manufacturing? Are they in IT? Are they in mining? Where are those jobs?

As a supporter of Prosperity 2020, I don’t know where to go. If I could have a report that said by 2020 we’re going to have 50,000 jobs that required these skill sets in IT, these skill sets in medicine, these skill sets in any industry, then we say, OK, who has that capacity? Maybe it’s at Weber State, so let’s make an investment there. Let’s come together and leverage our resources to solve the problem. 

Your question very closely ties to what President Millner has suggested about high-wage, high-demand jobs—that we’ve got to create some system for figuring out what that is so we know what we are going after.

PICARD: At the end of the day, those high-wage, high-demand jobs—we pretty much know what they are. The 66 percent goal came out of the current reports and there are follow up reports that show what those high-wage jobs are. It’s a question of building the infrastructure that will support our ability to do that.

I’ll give you just one small example. Right now, we have 16 sections of introductory math that we cannot find instructors for. So, what are we going to do in terms of those high-wage jobs, which all of them have a base demand for high math skills? And how do we begin to address that without addressing the financial needs that President Albrecht was pointing out? Right now our hands are tied. We would love to offer more math sections, but how do we do that if we cannot even find the faculty to teach those courses?

SHUMWAY: These are not easy problems. They require funding, and it strikes me that there are fundamental economic issues underneath this. We want more students to pursue certain high-wage tracks and critical careers, but what do we do in terms of incentivizing those in terms of their education track? For example, is it half tuition if you’ll be a math major?

We have a disconnect between our talk and our tax policy and economic policy in the state. We love the 66 percent goal, but our policy in the state says that the reasons we are not getting to our 66 percent goal are somehow separate from the economics of the system.

If we look at public education as a system—and probably higher education may be the same way—over the last 15 years, our economic commitment to education in the state has been consistently diminishing, not in terms of total dollars but in terms of a total percentage of our state’s overall wealth. We like to say we’re competing with China and that’s true, but it’s kind of hard to compete with China when Wyoming is kicking our butt.

We really have an issue of aligning what we say with what we do. During those 45 days of the legislative sessions, there is a significant misalignment between what we say we want and what we really apparently want by our fiscal actions.

Ted, can you give us a high level summary of where we are with USTAR?
MCALEER: We’ve talked a lot about high-wage jobs, and USTAR can be a capacity builder for those high-wage jobs of the future. If you really get down to the fundamental premise of behind USTAR, it was building the capacity of our higher education universities to support those high-wage jobs of the future.

So where are we? I like to say we’re finishing USTAR 1.0 and initiating USTAR 2.0. We’ve got a 210,000 square-foot facility at the University of Utah that brings together the colleges of medicine, engineering and science and is really a catalyst for creating new enterprises of the future.

We’ve got a 120,000-square foot facility at Utah State University in North Logan, and that is the catalyst for three specific innovation areas that we think are important—bio innovations, energy innovations, and earth and space innovations—three innovation areas that are supported by today’s industry and where we can see the industry of 2020.

We’ve also built capacity at our regional higher education institutions. The original premise of USTAR was that the capacity needed to be built at the University of Utah and Utah State. But our business development teams at Weber State University, Utah Valley University, Salt Lake Community College, Dixie College, Southern Utah University—and our friends in the Uintah Basin have some business development folks—their role has been to broker those connections between the industry community and the higher education community.

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