Three of Utah’s higher education institutions — Utah Valley University, Weber State University and Dixie State University — came together this week with state business leaders to discuss the increasing industry demands for an educated workplace, as well as access to education to meet the demands of a growing population.
The meeting, part of the Salt Lake Chamber’s Education and Workforce Forum, focused on the unique dual-mission model associated with each university to provide greater flexibility, access to quality education, vocational training opportunities and options for transfer/stackable credentials for students.
“As Utah’s economy evolves and grows, our workforce needs to be prepared to meet the changing demands,” said Jacey Skinner, General Counsel and VP of Government Relations for the Salt Lake Chamber. “We are fortunate in Utah to have a university system that includes these regional schools with specific missions to respond to these needs as they arise.”
Presidents Astrid Tuminez, of Utah Valley University; Brad Mortensen, of Weber State University; and, Richard Williams, of Dixie State University participated in a panel discussion, as well as received counsel and questions from leading members of Utah’s business community.
Amanda Covington, co-chair of public policy for the Salt Lake Chamber and EVP of Communications and Government Affairs for Larry H. Miller Group of Companies, moderated the forum and focused the conversation around how each of these universities is partnering with industry to build the workforce through high-quality programs from certificates to master’s degrees.
The panel started off with a discussion on how dual-mission institutions are uniquely situated to rapidly respond to workforce needs across the state. President Mortensen said, “Through our associate degree programs we can move students into bachelor degrees or take those who have an associates or some post-secondary experience and help train them for skills that are needed in Utah’s workforce. Additionally, we can start students off fresh with post-secondary experience and take that route to prepare them for employment. This flexibility allows us to be responsible to changing workforce requirements.”
President Tuminez transitioned the conversation into how Utah Valley University is preparing the workforce of tomorrow for jobs that do not yet exist. “While growing as a university, UVU is true to its original mission to provide community college offerings and even vocational education,” said Tuminez. “The richness of our offerings is because we have to remember the workplace is very diverse. We need everyone from the person fixing the car to the person who will be CEO.”
President Williams emphasized the role of life-long learning, explaining that receiving a good education at one of these universities provides a foundation to the “ebb and flow throughout life.” According to Williams, that is an emphasis Dixie State University shares with students who feel that a college education may not be necessary. “We want to make sure that every student knows how important it is to learn how to learn,” he said.
A recording of the forum is available on the Salt Lake Chamber Facebook page.