Utah one of nation’s leaders in science and engineering workforce growth

Utah is one of the nation’s leaders in long-term science and engineering (S&E) workforce growth, according to a new analysis released by SSTI (the State Science and Technology Institute), a national nonprofit organization dedicated to improving initiatives that support prosperity through science, technology, innovation, and entrepreneurship.

From 2003 to 2017, the time period covered in SSTI’s report, Utah was no. 3 in the nation for overall growth of its science and engineering workforce, growing by 60.9 percent, just behind Arkansas (67.2) and North Dakota (66.2 percent). Most recently, from 2013 to 2017, Utah led the nation with a 26.5 percent increase.

“Utah has done several things that make it an innovation leader, and this is evident by the tremendous growth of its science and engineering workforce,” said Dan Berglund, president and CEO of SSTI. “The state has made smart investments around research and development, especially around applied research centers through USTAR, encouraging commercialization and technology-transfer at universities, and supporting the growth of innovative small businesses. Utah also has built a strong talent pipeline through its schools, colleges, and career-training programs.”

The Utah Science Technology and Research Initiative (USTAR) is the state’s only program focused exclusively on technology-based economic development, playing an integral role in fostering growth in Utah’s deep science and technology sectors.

Over the past two years alone, USTAR client companies have created 424 high-wage full- and part-time jobs. Impressively, USTAR’s most recent projected five-year impact data for job creation was 200 full-time jobs. USTAR met this performance metric in just two years, with 258 full-time jobs created by USTAR supported companies.

The analysis released by SSTI utilizes figures from the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Science and Engineering Indicators series, which uses data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Employment Statistics Survey. The report stresses the key role that innovation policy plays in economic competitiveness in today’s globalized economy.

“Policymakers and scholars consistently emphasize innovation based on S&E research and development as a vehicle for economic growth and competitiveness,” the NSF notes. “In the increasingly interconnected 21st-century world, workers with S&E expertise are integral to a nation’s innovative capacity because of their high skill level, their creative ideas, and their ability not only to advance basic scientific knowledge but also to transform advances in fundamental knowledge into tangible and useful products and services.”

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Among the statistics released, scientists and engineers represent 4.8 percent of the nation’s workforce, according to the NSF. Utah ranks above the national average with 5.2 percent of the state’s workforce employed in scientific and engineering jobs.

In order to maintain and preserve this impressive growth, it is critical Utah continues to support technology-based economic development initiatives, says SSTI.

“For future success in the innovation economy, Utah must continue to make long-term investments in its competitiveness,” said Berglund. “This includes continued support of USTAR’s programs, strengthening the capacity to conduct R&D at its universities and businesses, working to convert this research into new jobs and businesses, and supporting entrepreneurship in high-growth industries through training and access to capital.”

Utah’s success in leading technology-based economic development and building an innovation economy will be highlighted at the 2018 SSTI Annual Conference, which will take place Dec. 3-5, 2018, at the Salt Lake City Marriott Downtown at City Creek. The event will include speakers from the U.S. Economic Development Administration, Department of Energy, and Department of Commerce, among others. To view the full agenda or register, visit https://2018.ssticonference.org/.

To views the full set of data, visit https://ssti.org/blog/useful-stats-science-and-engineering-workforce-state-2003-2017. To learn more about USTAR, visit USTAR.org.