August 1, 2011

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Do the Math

Sarah Ryther Francom

August 1, 2011

Utah’s technology industry plays a vital role in the state’s economy. According to the Utah Technology Council, the industry employs more than 76,000 Utahns with an average salary that is 62 percent higher than the statewide average. And despite the slow economy that has hindered growth for many industries, Utah’s tech sector remains vibrant. Today, there are more than 6,000 tech companies that are creating innovative tools and processes, and paving the way for future success.

These impressive figures, coupled with Utah’s proven innovative spirit and its growing funding and startup infrastructure, demonstrate that the state’s tech industry is poised for greatness.

In this issue of Utah Business, we brought together a group of local tech leaders to discuss the trends and challenges their companies are experiencing. The consensus among the group was that the No. 1 issue inhibiting their company’s growth—and, therefore, the growth of the entire tech industry—is the lack of skilled employees. These leaders, all of whom have current employment openings at their companies, agreed that Utah lacks the critical talent mass needed to grow the industry into the so-called Silicon Slopes that many local techies have worked to brand Utah as.

This lack of talent comes at a time when Utah’s unemployment rate has climbed to an unprecedented 7.4 percent. With so many people on the job hunt, and so many tech companies hurting to find the right hire, it becomes evident that there is a disconnect between what employers need and the skills employees offer. But where does the problem stem from? And, more importantly, what is the solution?

During the roundtable discussion, industry leaders brought up a variety of ways in which the state can foster a healthy tech environment. The group agreed that the solution begins with Utah’s youth. Too many children adopt the idea that math is hard or science is nerdy long before they finish elementary school. We need to change this mindset—the fact of the matter is that science can be fun, and math pays the bills.

Utah is a proven breeding ground where technology and high-tech startups bloom, and it’s an environment that deserves celebrating. Though Utah has yet to become the next Silicon Valley, the state’s entrepreneurial spirit and growing tech infrastructure ensures that we’re headed in the right direction. But the industry’s future success depends on effectively educating and investing in our children today.

From the Editor

Sarah Ryther Francom

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