December 6, 2013

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Do Your Part to Build a Stronger Workforce

By Sarah Ryther Francom

December 6, 2013

There’s much for Utah’s businesses and citizenry to be proud of when thinking of our great state. In many ways, this issue of Utah Business celebrates what our state is doing right. From our strong economy (read our economic forecast on page 64), to our unique spirit of community involvement and philanthropic giving (see the annual Nonprofit Guide) to our robust business environment that prioritizes people above profits (see the Best Companies to Work For report on page 82), there is much to be proud of. We are privileged to have so many great stories to share. 

Despite our state’s many accomplishments and strengths, there’s always room for improvement. My favorite article in this issue is our “Resolutions for a Better Utah” feature. We asked 10 chief executives spanning a variety of industries to offer their opinions about what we can and should do to enhance our state. Our hope is that these ideas will spur discussion and prompt action. Read their ideas on page 78.

In my position as managing editor, I am fortunate to be able to attend many events and hear from numerous people about what they think our state needs to continue excelling into the future. Without a doubt, the most common theme I hear is about our workforce. Yes, we have the nation’s youngest workforce. Yes, they are bilingual. Yes, they are educated. So what’s the problem? Today’s workers don’t have the necessary skills for today’s—and tomorrow’s—jobs. If you’ve seen the many catchy billboards lining I-15 vying for the attention of local techies, you know what I’m talking about. But the problem isn’t isolated to the high-tech industry—manufacturing, for example, is another field that struggles to find the workers it needs. So what can we do?

Outside of throwing money at the situation (which would be nice), I believe collaboration and exposure are key to creating a better prepared workforce. By collaboration, I mean that K-12 and higher education leaders should extensively and repeatedly meet with business executives to discuss workforce needs. Many executives have out-of-the-box ideas regarding how we can improve our workforce, but those ideas are rarely shared. I encourage you to be vocal about what your business needs. 

Beyond collaboration, do your part to expose students to the many opportunities that exist within your company and industry. For example, due to lack of exposure, many students simply don’t know that tech colleges can provide them with a certificate that they can use to get a long-term, good-paying job. Students should know this opportunity exists. Do your part by getting involved in the classroom and allowing students to get involved in your business. Help students and educators understand the type of education needed to obtain opportunities within your company—whether it’s an advanced degree or a certificate from one of the state’s great tech colleges. 

Keep in mind that it’s not all about tech positions. Obviously, as a magazine editor, I didn’t pursue a tech degree nor do I wish I had. The arts enhance critical thought and aid the decision-making process, and they have a solid place in the business community. We need more students to recognize their personal strengths and understand how those strengths align with businesses’ needs. Right now, too many students don’t realize what they can become. By collaborating with educators and helping expose students to the many careers options they have, business leaders can help create a robust future workforce.

From the Editor

Sarah Ryther Francom

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