Gov. Herbert Talks Tech, Education at Pancake Breakfast

Sandy—Beehive Startups, Salt Mine and Utah Technology Council presented “The Future of Technology in Utah Breakfast with Gov. Gary Herbert” on Monday morning, inviting the tech startup community to eat pancakes, network in the Salt Mine collective workspace area—and, hopefully, listen to the Governor’s call for the private sector to partner with the public where education is concerned. Donations from the event benefitted Edison Elementary, a Title I school in Salt Lake City focused on taking care of, educating and feeding underserved youth.

Herbert sat down to a conversation with Beehive Startups founder and editor-in-chief, Clint Betts, to answer questions about the technology talent shortage, out-of-state recruitment, and how education is the long-term answer to the tech industry’s problem.

“The biggest problem I find as I go around the state is that CEOs say to me: we have pipeline issues. Where is the new labor coming from?” said Herbert. “We need people who have skills that line up with the demands of the marketplace. Hence our STEAM programs.”

Investing in education and STEAM—Herbert said not to neglect the arts portion of the acronym, as creativity “has a very direct correlation to your success in the marketplace,”—is the best way Utah’s technology industry can truly be prepared in the future. While Herbert said that out-of-state talent overwhelmingly enjoys relocating to the Beehive State for its unparalleled views and excellent quality of life, it’s a short term solution to beckon talent in from elsewhere.

Herbert related a conversation he had with Dave Elkington, CEO of Elkington, said Herbert, chose a school wherein his company volunteers regularly to teach students code.

“[Elkington] issued a challenge. He said every company ought to adopt a school. He said: let’s develop more public-private partnerships. Let’s make sure the private sector has some involvement in education,” said Herbert. “You’re the end user. You’re the one going to hire the kids. They’re going to be your future employees that are going to help elevate your company and boost profitability—so you have a vested interest in making sure the education system works. Let’s all pull together, again.”

That, said Herbert, along with the fact that Utah has the most business-friendly atmosphere in the nation, would create an excellent environment for startups to grow and thrive. But, he warned, the fruits of investment don’t ripen overnight—it takes, and has taken, tremendous amounts of work to get where Utah is.

“We’ve created the most business-friendly environment in America today. It didn’t just happen. Just like your businesses aren’t just happening. ‘Serendipity comes around, all of a sudden we’ve got this successful business’—[no], you put thought, sweat, tears, blood and elbow grease into succeeding, into doing what you can to garner success,” said Herbert. “The same is true of our state. We’ve put a lot of effort and thought into creating this environment.”

By 2020, Herbert said he is hoping that 66 percent of the Utah population will have some manner of post-high school education, and strides have already been made toward achieving that goal. He said he believes that Utah can become the best-performing state in terms of education in the country, just as Utah has nurtured the best economy in the state.

“We’ve set the goal. Just like we’ve said let’s become the best-performing economy in America—why don’t we become the best-performing education system in America? I hear the guffaws out there. They say you don’t spend enough money. You can’t do it. You’ve got too high of a birth rate. Your classrooms are going to be too crowded,” said Herbert. “I think these are reasons why we can’t do it—but I’m here to suggest that we can, and we must, and we will, in fact, do it.”