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Utah’s institutions of higher education are making heroic efforts to provide a first-class education with a bare minimum of resources. So say leaders from these schools, who identify significant roadblocks such as access to education, obstacles to completing degrees and lack of adequate preparation at the K-12 level. These educators call on Utah’s business community to help advocate for a greater investment in the state’s higher education system.
We’d like to give a special thank you to Mary Ann Holladay, director of the Utah Women and Education Initiative, for moderating the discussion.
What is the role of higher education in shaping our future workforce and the economy?
WIGHT: There are two major roles for us and one, of course, is to contribute to making a skilled workforce—getting students the skills that they need to survive in lucrative careers. But the second and perhaps more important role of higher education is to promote a mature citizenry, to make sure that students grow up and learn to think for themselves and become productive citizens. That’s at least as important as acquiring skills because students, during their lives, will probably have four or five careers on average, not just one. So the skills that they get today will be temporary. But the maturity that they get as human beings will be permanent.
GOETZ: In this day and age of limited resources, you need to do that in a partnering way. But also we need to reach out to our secondary partners in a more effective way—and to industry—to do the alignment with workforce.
I look at our higher education institutions as community partners. We are the heartbeat of what happens in education, that centerpiece. To be able to reach out to all the people that play a role in education, not just secondary elementary partners and industry, but also the community as a whole, for that educated citizenry. If we do a better job of partnering, we will do a better job all the way around.
Are there some examples of partnerships that are working particularly well?
HENRIE: Salt Lake Community College is really proud of our partnership with L3 Communications. We created the curriculum and the programming, but we share space with them and they send us their workers. We train them and they are able to advance in their careers. L3 sits with our PAC committees. They help develop the curriculum. They tell us what they need and what they want, and we listen. So it’s a great partnership for us.
BAYLE: At United Way we are all about partnerships. And, in fact, the business model that we have chosen to use for the work that we do is all about partnership. It’s called Collective Impact, and it requires that all the different segments of our community and our society work together to advance common goals to make sure that kids and families in our community are achieving at the levels that they can and that they should be able to, without having the stigma that is often attached to kids and families who are high risk or ethnic minorities or whatever.
TAGGART: We have significant partnerships in Weber County between the tech college and Weber State University. That really is a win/win for many students. Many of our students are first-time college attendees and they are receiving technical skills so they can get to work. But we want to make sure that’s not a dead end for them, that they have those additional opportunities once they have had success in a post-secondary environment.
We have significant pathways between the high schools and the tech college, and then between the tech college and the university. We have pathways for students that complete one of our certificates to get an associate of applied science in general technology at Weber State, where completion of their technical certificate counts towards 30 hours of that associate’s of applied science degree. We have partnerships between our apprenticeship program and an associate degree in apprenticeship at Weber State.