Education Summit promoting Prosperity 2020 & Business Promise

Friday, October 25th, 2013

This week, Ogden/Weber Chamber along with Partners in Education put on the Education Summit in Ogden. Prosperity 2020 chair Alan Hall, an Ogden native, keynoted the event, elaborating on the education movement’s goals for Utah and how we are working to achieve those goals. Hall expressed that he is very impressed by how involved the Weber and Ogden school districts have been in furthering the goals of Prosperity 2020.

One of the things Hall will be working towards is taking Prosperity 2020 to the next level by incorporating statewide action. The Standard Examiner reported:

Hall said he plans to visit every school district, university and trade school across the state to spread his message of the importance of education and how Utah can and should be rising to the top.

“In the 1960s we were third in the nation. Now we are somewhere in the middle. I think we can get back in the top 10,” Hall said of Utah’s education scores.

Ogden/Weber Chamber President and Business Promise chair Dave Hardman said that there has been an uptick in volunteers, but they still would like to see more.

Volunteerism is another key to Prosperity 2020′s goals for education in the state. The Prosperity 2020 Business Promise aims to have 20,200 volunteers in Utah schools by the year 2020. An ambitious goal, but one that can greatly increase positive educational outcomes.

You can read the Standard Examiner’s coverage of the event here:

About Prosperity 2020
The Prosperity 2020 movement, the largest business-led movement ever assembled in Utah to advance educational investment and innovation, is supported by 20 chambers of commerce across the state as well as multiple business associations and individual businesses. This robust group of business leaders has played a critical role in establishing three goals to be achieved by 2020:

·       66 percent of Utah adults with a postsecondary certificate or degree
·       90 percent of elementary students proficient in reading and mathematics
·       STEM Top Ten center for technology jobs and businesses

During the 2013 general legislative session, the Utah Legislature officially adopted the first two goals and formed a committee to chart a path toward meeting them. Prosperity 2020 will continue to play an active role in supporting the completion of these goals. Learn more by visiting

State grant to help fill needs in workforce

Thursday, October 17th, 2013

Utah business leaders know just how essential skilled workers are to the long-term strength of our state economy. They’ve come together to support the Prosperity 2020 movement in an effort to encourage more students to earn college degrees, particularly in the high-demand, high-compensation STEM jobs (those that require skills in science, technology, engineering and mathematics).

Today, the Utah Department of Workforce Services announced a new grant program to spur workforce alignment and economic growth, specifically in technology, manufacturing and health care.

Here’s the news release from DWS:

$1 million to fund Higher Ed Programs in High Demand

SALT LAKE CITY—Utah students and business owners with a focus on technology, manufacturing or healthcare will soon reap the benefits of a newly approved grant program that funds training for students in highly sought-after fields. $1 million was approved Tuesday to expand or create programs at higher educational institutions throughout the state. These programs range from IT, energy research and medical assisting to advanced machining and manufacturing .

“Business owners throughout Utah are clamoring for skilled workers, and this program helps train students in these growing fields,” said DWS Executive Director Jon Pierpont. “This newly approved grant money will fund vital high-tech learning programs that our students want and our businesses need.”

The grants are part of the Utah Cluster Acceleration Partnership project, known as UCAP, which was created to better align industry workforce needs with education programs. It is a partnership between the Department of Workforce Services, the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, and the Utah System of Higher Education. The money goes to expand or create programs in information technology, healthcare, energy and manufacturing, among others.

“As our state economy grows businesses are counting on the state to have a partnership in place that will train the workforce of tomorrow, “said Spencer Eccles, GOED executive director. “Today’s students need training that will insure our businesses have a workforce with the right skill sets and the UCAP program helps to meet that need.”

“Investing in education today builds the foundation for a strong economy tomorrow,” said Commissioner of Higher Education Dave Buhler. “We’re pleased to implement these programs and expansions to support Utah’s economic engine.”

The money comes from the Unemployment Insurance Job Growth Fund, and is available for programs to immediately access. For more information on the programs approved, see the attached summary.

Science: Learning through inquiry

Monday, October 14th, 2013

Ask most employers and they will tell you critical thinking is an important skill for job seekers to have.

While schools don’t have classes specifically called, “Critical Thinking,” there’s one topic that can open up student’s minds to thinking out of the box.

Science, in particular, challenges students to ask questions, gather information, deduce and explain a decision based on their experiments. Science encourages exploration, reflection and application of principles. Essentially, science is a machine requiring critical thinking to find new solutions.

A secure grasp of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education is important for students who want to succeed now and in the future. Many of the high-paying jobs of the 21st Century involve these subjects. Such positions help further the technology of the world, improving the quality of life for many, and lead those who do this kind of work into a prosperous future of their own.

That’s why Prosperity 2020 greatly encourages STEM education and shares a goal with the Utah Legislature to make Utah a top ten tech center. The key to a prosperous future for Utah and people in Utah starts with education.

The infographic, published by the Smithsonian Science Education Center, below goes into more detail about science education and what kind of a difference a STEM education can have.

Learning Science Through Inquiry

by TimothySanders.
Explore more infographics like this one on the web’s largest information design community – Visually.


STEM pilot program is underway

Wednesday, August 14th, 2013

Utah has one of the most diverse economies in the nation. More and more of the jobs we’re creating, and those we’ll create in the coming years, depend on a well-educated workforce, particularly in critical science, technology, engineering and math (or STEM) fields.

Earlier this month, 53 middle and high schools were selected to participate in the STEM technology pilot program this fall, as designated by HB 139 in the 2013 General Legislative session. Last week, 120 teachers from those schools were trained on the technologies approved for implementation this coming school year as part of the program.

The STEM Action Center, approved by the Utah Legislature this year, and the Salt Lake Center for Science Education gave the teachers a full day of training on eleven different technologies selected for the STEM pilot program. The technologies were selected by representatives and experts from the community, the Utah State Office of Education, the Utah System of Higher Education and private industry.

The STEM Action Center was established to help drive research and the implementation of the best STEM education practices across the state. The Utah State Legislature has invested $10 million into this initiative. To learn more, click here.

Business leaders supporting the Prosperity 2020 movement have set the goal to make Salt Lake a STEM Top Ten Center for technology jobs and businesses.

You can read more about this in an article on Utah Business week here.


An active role for business in education

Thursday, July 25th, 2013

Editor’s note: This post was authored by Tom Donohue, president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and was originally published on the official blog of the U.S. Chamber, You can find the original post here. 

Cracks in the U.S. workforce suggest that our legacy of ever-expanding opportunity and advancement is under threat. Even as unemployment remains high, some 3 million U.S. jobs sit vacant because businesses can’t find qualified workers to fill them. And the current generation of students could be the first in our history to be less educated than their parents.

Fewer Americans are emerging from our public education system with sufficient skills in math, science, reading, communications, and critical thinking. Without that foundation, it’s harder for them to advance their education or careers in our modern economy. Consequently, the United States has fallen to 10th in the world in the percentage of young adults with a college degree—we used to be 1st.

Complicating matters, the jobs of the 21st century are becoming more specialized and technical, requiring more education, advanced training, and sophisticated skills. Approximately 90 percent of the jobs in the fastest-growing occupations require some postsecondary education and training. By 2020, there will be 120 million “high-skilled” and “high-wage” jobs.

To ensure a steady flow of American workers to fill those jobs, we must strengthen U.S. education and job training, aligning those systems with the needs of our economy.

U.S. businesses can and must play a role. The business community continues to advocate for policies that better prepare students to be college and career ready—such as Common Core State Standards—and supports an overhaul of current job training systems. Companies also invest heavily in education, contributing more than $4 billion a year. But we’ve largely left the job of educating our workforce to the educators. Business needs to take a more hands-on approach.

We’ve got to clearly articulate what we need: competitive workers who can write, reason, solve problems, and apply their learning and use their diplomas or degrees to contribute to our economy.

We must help students see a clear connection between their programs of study and tangible opportunities in the labor market. And we need to bring more American students into our businesses through internships and apprenticeships. “Work-linked” learning can enrich their education and help decide career paths.

The bottom line is that the education and competitiveness of our workers affect all of us. It determines the economic strength and global competitiveness of our country. So we’ve got to work together to make sure that we’re improving and investing in one of America’s greatest assets—the U.S. workforce. And if we do that, we’ll be able to protect the great American legacy of opportunity and advancement too.


Education impacts Utah’s business rankings

Wednesday, July 10th, 2013

A top five ranking among America’s best states for business is generally something to celebrate. Unless you’ve dropped from second place a year ago.

CNBC released its rankings today and Utah finds itself tied for fifth with Virginia; the commonwealth had claimed the top spot in the ranking three times since 2006. South Dakota claimed the top spot for 2013.

Business is tied to education
The Beehive State’s overall ranking was hurt by its 39th overall ranking in education. This is not a new issue to the business community; the warning signs are clear:

- We have a rapidly diversifying population that requires a new approach to education.
- We have lower test scores than states with similar ethnic/minority diversity, education levels of parents and student poverty levels.
- One out of every four high school freshman will not graduate.

All that comes as we rank 32nd  among states in public education spending per $1,000 of personal income.

We used to do more with less. Now we just do less.

On the same page
Utah’s secret sauce is our ability to work together to solve problems. Through the Prosperity 2020 movement, the business community, has called for greater innovation, investment, accountability and collaboration in education. Gov. Gary Herbert and the Utah Legislature have made education a priority by setting goals to have 66 percent of all Utah adults hold a college degree or skilled trade certificate, and for 90 percent of all elementary school students to be proficient in reading and mathematics by the end of the decade.

With the governor, the Legislature, educators and the business community driving toward the same, well-defined, challenging goals, we can make a significant improvement.

Silver lining
The good news is Utah still scored very high in business friendliness thanks to our regulatory environment and five percent corporate and individual tax rates.

We have rightfully touted ourselves as a great place to do business. We rank very high in many rankings like this. We’re still Forbes Magazine’s Best State for Business and Careers– a title we’ve held for three years in a row.

But just like the road to enduring prosperity, if we want to claim the title as the Top State for Business, it starts with education.

You can read the CNBC article here and find complete rankings here.


A business case for education reform

Friday, June 28th, 2013

The Salt Lake Chamber knows education is the key to enduring prosperity. We’ve joined nearly 20 other chambers of commerce and business associations as part of the Prosperity 2020 movement.

As the infographic below illustrates, the U.S. education system is failing to equip students with the skills required for the jobs of the 21st century. In some communities, however, local business leaders are leading the charge for outcomes-based reform.

66 by 2020: The Perfect Vision

Thursday, May 23rd, 2013

Joaquin Zihuatanejo from CoolSpeak recently presented at the First Annual Multicultural Affairs Youth Leadership Summit. This video was created by Zihuatanejo and Art Hooker. Zihuatanejo wrote this poem for the Governor’s 66 by 2020 initiative and goal shared by Prosperity 2020, the largest business-led movement to increase innovation, investment and accountability in education.


Miss America and the importance of STEM education

Friday, May 10th, 2013

As the Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED) announced the allocation of some STEM-related funds, Miss America joined business leaders and policy makers in championing the importance of STEM education in a press conference on Friday at the Salt Lake Chamber.

The Utah Legislature appropriated $10 million for a STEM Action Center during the 2013 session. Sophia DeCaro, deputy director of GOED, announced $1.5 million will go to establish a director, staff and board. $5 million will be dedicated to math skill building in sixth, seventh and eighth grades, while $3.5 million will go to juniors and seniors in high school for college math readiness.

“If we don’t give our children an education that provides them an edge, their future jobs will be taken from them by students in China, India or the rest of the world,” said Stan Lockhart of IM Flash and private sector chair for Utah’s STEM Education Initiative. “What can we do to give them an edge? What can we do to teach them the skills that allow them to compete in this digital world we live in? What it comes down to is this: science, technology, engineering and math.”

Mallory Hagan, the reigning Miss America, says she expressed great interest in math and science in middle school thanks to passionate teachers who cared about her success. “But [in high school] we had teachers who were making sure we made good grades on tests but not making sure we could comprehend any of the information. That’s a hard lesson to learn when you’re a freshman in bio-medical science.”

Hagan has since changed her educational path to marketing with a focus in cosmetics and fragrance, but wishes she had learned back in her formative years the “cool” jobs that she could have from pursuing more math and science, like making lipstick and mascara and not just wearing it.

Today, she encourages mentorship as part of an education to show students what kinds of opportunities are available to them, since dissecting frogs and learning about atoms doesn’t give them the whole scope what of what they are able do.

“There are so many kids across the nation who don’t have a favorite subject, who don’t enjoy school, and they are in the first, second and third grade. That’s really disheartening because we want kids to want to learn. We need to catch them early on otherwise there’s no hope for the rest of their education process.”

And a quality education can help make the difference, whether that’s in only in making good grades to get to college or making an actual difference in the world as many STEM-related jobs are able to do.

Want to Save American Jobs – Start in the Classroom

Wednesday, April 3rd, 2013

Ed Rust, Chairman and CEO of State Farm and Chairman of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Editor’s note: This is cross-posted from CNBC and Free Enterprise

As our political leaders take stock of where we stand in 2013—both as individual states and as a nation—we are hearing a consistent message: jobs, our economy and education are inextricably linked.

We heard the President make this case in his State of the Union Address and we’ve heard it echoed by both Democratic and Republican governors. If we want to see some meaningful improvements in our education system, business leaders must step up and lead as well.

Education is akin to a computer’s operating system. It drives other crucial functions in a country: workforce preparedness, business growth and economic strength to name just a few. Unfortunately, our system of education and workforce training has become outdated. If we are going to prepare students as well as we should, we must upgrade.

Business leaders understand the urgency of this better than anyone, and we recognize the world is changing – fast. Low-skill jobs that pay well are disappearing and never coming back. What used to be elite knowledge is now entry-level knowledge.

Other countries are making the education of their workforces a priority. Yet, while the United States still has one of the best educated workforces, we are the only industrialized country where the generation just entering the labor market is less likely to have a college degree than the one about to leave the labor market.

The percentage of youth in America is declining, while the population is growing more diverse. And while the latter trend presents tremendous opportunities, the dropout rate for Latino and African American students in the U.S. remains 20 points higher – almost 50 percent — compared to the overall U.S. school population.

These students, who have been underserved by our education system will become a massive portion of our future workforce. So ensuring access to high-quality education for all students is not just the right thing to do. It’s also the smart thing.

Changing how we educate is as important for the individual worker as it is to the strength of the workforce as a whole.

More than ever, the success of American workers—their income, employment, financial and career stability—are all determined by one simple factor: how well their education matches up with the economic demands of the world. Nothing illustrates this better than the fact that there were 3.7 million unfilled jobs on the last business day of November 2012 despite an unemployment rate that has failed to return to prerecession levels.

Education has always been—and can still be—the key to fulfilling the American Dream. And business depends on education to produce the skilled, innovative, first-class individuals we need to keep America a global leader. But like any system, we should make improvements to optimize it to meet the challenges of today and those we will face tomorrow.

The good news is that there are thoughtful policy solutions that are already having a positive effect at the local, state and federal levels.

World class academic standards are helping ensure that every single student is held to the same high expectations—and given the solid educational foundation—they need to succeed in both school and career. We now look beyond just aggregate and average figures; we also look at subgroups of students, like English Language Learners, who may need more support to reach higher standards. We are accurately reporting graduation rates. And we are bringing renewed priority to improving our nation’s lowest performing schools.

In addition, some of the biggest names in business, from General Electric to ExxonMobil and Wells Fargo, are strengthening their commitment to improving education and ensuring all U.S. students succeed academically and professionally. Many of us are extending that commitment to helping improve America’s education system even further. This April, I will be joining a number of my fellow CEOs to discuss the ways in which we—as business leaders—can help ensure our country is not just aware of the urgency but is implementing the solutions.

Governor Terry Branstad remarked in Iowa’s State of the State address that college and career-readiness upon high school graduation is “an economic and moral imperative.” He’s right of course. America’s success has long been defined by its ability to innovate, adapt and excel. It’s time to apply that thinking to our education system.