Industry Outlook: Higher Education

August 9, 2013

SNYDER: We have a program called University Neighbor Partners, located on the west side of the city, and it promotes access and opportunity for students, from a very young age, who might not otherwise see the university as an opportunity or even a possibility for them.

Another area where we are growing our relationship is with a program called the University Community Partners, which is really with employers to help students find pathways through internships, cooperative opportunities and actual jobs down the road.      

JESSING: At Salt Lake Community College, they also have InnovaBio, which is a contract-type function that offers internships. We have a similar thing at Bioinnovations Gateway where we are creating internships, in this case for high school students, with existing companies that operate inside the high school. Those internship opportunities create the soft skills that go beyond what the typical curriculum would be in a classroom.  

GOETZ: I can’t help but give a shout-out to state agencies. There’s a particular program that’s been going on for several years called Utah Cluster Acceleration Partner, or UCAP, and that is one of the more outstanding partnerships I have seen in the last several years. It started out as a collaboration between the Utah Department of Workforce Services, the Governor’s Office of Economic Development and the Utah System of Higher Education and the Commissioner’s Office. The overall mission was to align higher education with workforce needs.

This was a very interesting partnership in that industry drove the conversation, but nearly every higher education partner in this room was engaged as a convener. And it focused on different clusters in economic development.

KEY: As we build new degree programs, we hold discussions like that to inquire what employers are looking for in an employee. So we have built, literally, new degree programs backwards, based on employers saying, “These are skills that a student with a master’s degree in strategic communication needs to have.”       

HENRIE: I feel like Salt Lake Community College is a bridge for the Salt Lake Valley. We take from the K-12 system and get them ready for our four-year sister institutions, particularly the University of Utah. We have a huge number of transfer students that go into the programs up there.

We also bridge them into the workforce. So the concept of being the bridge, being the partner, building pathways—that’s the key for all of us in the next five to 10 years, making sure there are clear, distinct pathways for our students to follow from K-12 into the workforce and then back into higher ed, if they need to. Because the economy is changing, jobs are changing, and the skills that they get today may not be the skills that they need for tomorrow.      

Do you think the economy has forced innovation in education and do you have some examples of innovative approaches?    

LEASURE: The economy continues to put pressure. The available funding is a limited pie that has to be shared out. So it puts pressure on all of us to find ways to apply technologies that reduce costs so that our education is affordable and accessible for the students that need it.      


MADSEN: Not just the economy but other things happen externally. For example, the change in age requirements for LDS missions. That changes what we had done because we knew we would have thousands fewer students. Our strategies, this upcoming semester, are to really focus on trying to get students who are nontraditional, older, are in the workplace, or women who are at home, back to school. In two or three years it will catch up and we will see what happens.     

SNYDER: There’s been a decades-long trend that when the economy declines, students go back to school, and when the economy improves, people go to work. So the economy definitely impacts all of our enrollments, and we have to find ways to adjust to that and moderate those changes.      

With the improving economy and the LDS mission change, have you seen enrollment decline recently?     

SNYDER: We are not seeing a decline, but that is because we are working very hard to make sure we are attracting different groups that might not have considered higher education before.        

HENRIE: Salt Lake Community College is just the opposite of what is happening at the U. We are seeing our enrollments slide because, as the economy improves, we are training the entry-level workforce, so they are choosing between work and college. We are hoping that our business partners will encourage those employees, once they get the job, to continue their educational path, provide opportunities for scholarships or reimbursement, and allow them to come to school while they are working so we don’t lose those students. But our enrollments, because the economy has improved, are declining quickly.    

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