I have written about this goal before (that 66% of adult Utahns will have a post-secondary degree or professional certification by the year 2020), as part of the Governor’s objectives for his Education “cornerstone.” In fact, the Governor has been talking about it for quite some time. What sets this moment apart is that the goal is no longer the Governor’s alone, but one that has been adopted by both the business and education communities.
As Mark Bouchard, who leads the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce Prosperity 2020 initiative, pointed out at the summit, we must use applicable business principles in the effort. This is especially true given Utah’s unique situation of large families, a younger population, and limited private land generating tax revenue. That’s why being innovative and creative in making our tax dollars go further is not a luxury, it is a necessity. It also means the conversation can’t be focused solely on increased funding. As Governor Herbert often says, “It’s not only about the money. It is some about money but not only about money.” Like any savvy business, we must ask: What are the goals? What are the strategies and tactics to accomplish those goals? And, what will those initiatives and efforts cost?
Of course, this is “Business 101” but the point is that Apple or Adobe or Audi, or any leading edge company, does not say, “Let’s have a goal to spend more money.” Instead they say, “Let’s have a goal to increase market share . . . or expand revenue . . . or grow through acquisition,” and then they spend money strategically to accomplish the goal. That is why having the Governor set a goal of 66% by 2020 is so important, and getting buy-in from the education and business communities is so vital.
The majority of the time at the Governor’s Education Summit focused on the specific actions that need to be taken by the education and business communities to accomplish the 66% by 2020 goal. Governor Herbert outlined his P.A.C.E program and state government’s role in accomplishing the goal. Dave Buhler, the Commissioner of Higher Education, spoke on aligning college degrees with current and future real-world-jobs. Rob Brems addressed how the Applied Technology Colleges will increase the number of professional certificates. Martell Menlove, the next State Superintendent of Public Instruction spoke about the importance of making STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) more robust throughout K-12. And Mark Bouchard outlined how the business community will do its part by providing 20,200 community volunteers to help teachers in classrooms as an example of a creative solution that will improve our education system without costing a dime. Other attendees representing charter schools, private colleges, and the state legislature participated in the discussion, offering how they can do their part.
The energy in the room was high. The attendees were excited to get moving. And we all sense that we are on the verge of something great. Instead of working at cross-purposes, we are using our different perspectives and unique influences to accomplish a common goal. And we will accomplish the goal – because we must! It is a simple fact that our economy cannot operate without the educated workforce that 66% by 2020 will provide. So, it is good for education, it is good for the economy, and most importantly it is good for the people of Utah.