Salt Lake City -Utah and the nation are recovering from the 2007 recession, only to find ourselves on a collision course with the future: Not enough Utahns continue their education and training after high school.
Governor Gary Herbert and Dr. Anthony P. Carnevale, director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, raised that warning Tuesday morning. Their comments came during a Capitol Hill press conference with key Utah business leaders.
Dr. Carnevale authored a recent landmark study that projects jobs and education requirements state by state through 2018. Calling Governor Herbert a "steely-eyed realist," he said he has traveled many states. "The difference here is that the effort is well led," Dr. Carnevale said. His analysis shows two-thirds of Utahns should have skilled trade certificates or academic degrees by 2018 to meet Utah employer workforce needs.
Governor Herbert identifies education as the first cornerstone of a stronger economy. "Education is the foundation for economic recovery and prosperity. Investing now pays dividends for decades."
The Governor's Education Excellence Commission created a vision for Utah to increase its educational performance consistent with the Carnevale recommendations. "By 2020 and thereafter, at least 66 percent of Utahns ages 20 to 64 will have a postsecondary degree or certificate," the vision statement says.
"If we show the courage to invest and innovate, Utah has a huge strategic advantage," Governor Herbert said in response to Carnevale. "Our large youth population and our strong educational foundations can position Utah as a leader in science, technology, health care, and other high growth sectors."
Carnevale said, "Employers vote with paychecks."
Carnevale's colleague and senior economist, Dr. Nicole Smith, called Utah's 7.5 percent unemployment rate "an amazing feat," given our younger average population and the nationwide economic downturn.
Herbert warned Utah must reverse the trend of today's young people pursing less post-secondary education than their parents. Two decades ago, Utah was one of the top states for the percentage of adults with college degrees. Utah now falls below the national average.
Carnevale's Utah visit was organized by the Governor's Office and the Prosperity 2020 coalition of business and community leaders. The Prosperity 2020 credo is education is the path to enduring prosperity, and we must improve our educational performance to improve our economic path. Mark Bouchard, founding chair of Prosperity 2020, said Utah's decision points are similar to those faced by business leaders as they chart their growth strategies.
"Business leaders know you have to set clear goals to achieve results," Bouchard said. "To achieve our prosperity potential, we need to invest in education, set high standards, measure progress and reward results. It's the most important investment we can make for our children, our economy and community well being. "
Utah is three percentage points above the national average of 63 percent in the percent of adults who should have skilled trade certificates by 2018, according to the Carnevale report. This puts Utah eighth nationally in postsecondary intensity for 2018.
Of the 1.6 million projected Utah jobs, only about one-fourth will be available to high school graduates. A quarter will go to those with some postsecondary training or college. The bulk of jobs are reserved for those who achieve associate, bachelor's, or graduate degrees, the Georgetown study shows. National studies also consistently show that individual earnings increase along with educational achievement.
Lane Beattie, president of the Salt Lake Chamber, said achieving the 66 percent goal is one of the Chamber's highest priorities. The Chamber is Utah's largest business organization and a founding member of Prosperity 2020. "The gold standard for economic success is education," Beattie said.
To succeed, we need to provide children a strong start, Beattie said. The Chamber is calling for reading and math initiatives to help 90 percent of Utah third graders achieve reading proficiency and 90 percent of sixth graders to achieve math proficiency. Optional all-day kindergarten for at-risk students is also advocated by the Chamber.