Conversations about Utah hardly conjure up ideas of a tech hub but in the beehive state, the tech industry is buzzing. Since becoming a prosperous tech magnet, Utah is developing strategies to groom future talent and busy passing legislation that will encourage STEM graduates to stay a while. Tech firms want to lay the groundwork in elementary schools as plans to help boost computer science offerings in schools across the state are underway. High schools now have specialized curriculum focusing on technology and are aiming to attract adolescent teens into the tech world and prepare them for post-college careers.
High school students are offered spots in Career and Technical Education programs, which also provides them with real-work experience while in the program. CTE has been around for years, but with new subjects like robotics and aviation science, students are now afforded opportunities to become passionate about a tech subject well before college.
This program provides all students with a seamless education, driven by College and Career Readiness. Through competency-based instructions that culminates to essential life skills and certified occupational skills, the schools prepare students for higher education and meaningful employment.
While there is a strong desire to bolster tech education for the state's students in K-12, there is also a passion to keep that talent working in-state, post-graduation. The state is strategizing from ‘kindergarten to career’ to keep talent in its borders. Additionally, to retain STEM graduates from one of Utah’s 8, 4-year-universities — or a handful of its Technical Colleges, the state passed Senate Bill 104, offering a financial incentive for some 29,000 graduating students to remain in the state.
Participants in the program would have 25 percent of a qualifying incentive loan erased each year they work for a Utah employer. Supporters of the initiative hope the program will incentivize graduates to pursue both educational and career opportunities in Utah.
While the Utah tech community is growing quickly, local companies are finding it difficult to retain and attract enough talent to fill the jobs they have available. “The number of new jobs that need to be filled are outpacing the number of new people universities are producing with those skills,” said Aaron Skonnard, CEO of local tech company Pluralsight. The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Ann Millner, R-Ogden, hopes the incentive program will, at minimum, help retain local talent. An upside would be additional student attraction into Utah’s university system.