June 27, 2013

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UTC Working to Increase Visibility of STEM Careers

Rachel Madison

June 27, 2013

The Utah Technology Council has been busy this month spreading the message to high school counselors and students that careers in science, technology, engineering and math should be foremost in their minds.

This message comes on the heels of a successful legislative session where the UTC saw $10 million allocated to build a STEM Action Center, an education task force approved, the modification of school grading to include measuring learning growth and career readiness, and a resolution calling for the governor’s approval of the state superintendant.

On June 18, close to two dozen UTC members spoke to more than 850 school counselors at the 2013 Work-Based Learning Summer Conference, in conjunction with the Utah State Office of Education, about the vital role of STEM careers.

“Some institutions are so focused on graduation success that they are eliminating the more difficult STEM subjects,” said Mark Sunday, UTC vice chair and CIO of Oracle. “It is vital that we turn this equation around. In fact, I would maintain that it matters less which institution you graduate from, but more that you do well—that you not only emphasize STEM preparation and training, but that you also make the effort to achieve the highest possible grades.”

Several other UTC members echoed similar sentiments. They expressed concern for their specific industries, citing a need for more people who can excel in STEM subjects because of Utah’s growing technology industry.

“Utah’s entire economy is driven by the strength of tech,” said Joe Swenson, a UTC trustee and CEO of Imagine Learning. “The world has changed drastically, and it’s not going back. The more emphasis we can put on STEM education, the better.”

Because of these concerns, UTC organized a pilot program with Canyons and Alpine school districts to promote STEM careers. The program’s first event was held Wednesday at IM Flash Technologies in Lehi. Other company visits will be scheduled in the future.

A group of 75 high school juniors were able to get a first-hand look at the impact they could have in a STEM career at IM Flash Technologies.

Students were able to hear from IM Flash Technologies leaders about how STEM careers could make an impact on the world. They were also able to get hands-on experience that taught them what it would be like to work in a STEM career. Students rotated through different stations and got to participate in activities such as chemical deposition experiments, UV light changes experiments and nano microscopy demos.

“It is critical to the future of economic development of Utah that we show our students the importance of STEM,” said Richard Nelson, president and CEO of UTC. “We must do what is necessary to get them excited about the career opportunities that emphasize STEM skills—the ‘hot jobs.’”

UTC is a state association that works to grow high tech and clean tech companies, specifically through helping them become more globally competitive, addressing the talent shortage in Utah, and assisting entrepreneurs with access to funding.

“Utah has many more technology jobs than we are able to fill,” Nelson said. “Because of our lack of qualified talent, our technology companies are being required to import skilled workers from out of state and some are opening offices elsewhere. We need to do all we can to provide a workforce here in Utah that meets the needs of industry. ”

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