The 2018 Legislative Session is behind us, but the positive impacts for our economy and business community will be felt for years to come. In the next several weeks, we will break down some of the most impactful pieces of legislation the Chamber supported over the 45 day session, share insights about the process and why it matters for our members. We’ve covered the Our Schools Now compromise, monumental transportation legislation and now, addressing Utah’s workforce needs.

It’s no secret that building and retaining a talented workforce is of the greatest importance to Utah’s business community. Utah’s tight labor market was recently reported as the top barrier to growth by business executives across the state. This, along with maintaining a robust education system, represent the most pressing challenges facing our state’s economy. To address these challenges from a legislative standpoint, lawmakers worked to develop solutions that could bring greater accountability, investment and innovation in education, as well as focus on coordinating workforce development programs that help keep talent within the state.

Here are 5 workforce wins from the 2018 session:

  1. Data shows that Utah’s talent flow, or balance between in-and-out migration and educational attainment, is at a net loss. Currently, our state is a net exporter of talent, meaning students go to school and train here and then leave the state to start their career. S.B. 104 Talent Recruitment and Retention Strategy, sponsored by Senator Ann Millner, seeks to reverse the outflow of talent by incentivizing students to enroll in degree programs that align with Utah’s high-demand, high-wage jobs and then remain in the state and work in that field after graduation. For every year that a recipient of the loan works in the designated high-demand job, they can receive one year of student loan repayment. This innovative approach to both workforce development and degree completion helps motivate students to pursue key industries within the state.
  2. S.B. 131 Talent Ready Utah Amendments ensures more collaboration across institutions, agencies and industries to fill-in the state’s talent gaps through the creation of the Talent Ready Utah Center within the Governor’s Office of Economic Development. Talent Ready Utah was announced by Gov. Herbert in his 2017 State of the State address, and this legislation helps to build out the program and provide more pathways for students and industry to collaborate. This center will promote the inclusion of industry partners in education and include outreach to employers regarding the various workforce development programs across the state. It also includes funding for a mapping of all workforce development programs statewide in order for industry and education to better align efforts. This legislation ensures Talent Ready Utah becomes the “one-stop shop” for connecting business with education.
  3. Nicknamed the “Beattie Bill,” after our very own President & CEO Lane Beattie, S.B. 194 Early Literacy Program is an issue of great importance not only for Lane but for business leaders throughout the state. Reading proficiency is fundamental to a child’s learning and sets them up for success in school and in the future as they enter the workforce. This bill funds early intervention reading programs and allows schools to implement these programs in a way that best meets the diverse needs of their students.
  4. Responding to the Governor’s call to create 25,000 jobs in the 25 counties off the Wasatch Front, Rep. Mike Noel sponsored H.B. 327 Rural Online Initiative to establish a pilot program through the Utah State University county extension system that will help individuals living in rural areas to take advantage of online freelance, job and business opportunities. This program will continue to advance the Governor’s goal and the state’s focus on bolstering job creation in rural areas.
  5. Sen. Millner also sponsored S.B. 103 Strategic Workforce Investments, which establishes statewide-focused “stackable credentials” in various industry clusters. Stackable credentials allow a student to go from high school to a Technical College to a 2 or 4 year university seamlessly by stacking credit along the way. This will ensure all of their credits will transfer so that each effort builds upon the last without duplication. These stackable credentials allow for flexibility for students to build on their educational experiences and connect higher education to a career.

Overall, the 2018 legislative session was very successful for expanding workforce development opportunities across the state. These and many other workforce wins will not only help students succeed in their future careers, but also ensure employers have an educated and skilled labor force to meet the demands of Utah’s growing economy.

This blog is part of a series recapping the 2018 legislative session and what it means for Utah’s business community.