I always enjoy meeting with business leaders from across the state to discuss their company’s successes and challenges. Whether visiting with members of the technology or manufacturing industry, small business owners or large bankers, I’ve noticed a universally held concern about the future of business growth in the state of Utah ­­– the need for a skilled workforce. This is reinforced by the Salt Lake Chamber and Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute’s most recent CEOutlook report, which states that the overwhelming majority of Utah’s executives believe workforce is the single greatest challenge to business growth.

As a result of these and other conversations, I’ve been considering how we as a business community can address the talent shortage facing our state and help to develop the skilled workers needed for today’s complex economy. My conclusion – simply get involved.

Education needs more industry partners at the table. There are numerous programs, resources and opportunities in place to engage with our institutions of higher education and support workforce development. This includes the Talent Ready Utah initiative, Pathways Programs and STEM-focused opportunities, as well as Utah’s high school Career and Technical Education Certification Program (CTE) , to name just a few. These programs have great cross-sector participation and could always use more business involvement.

Employers can also collaborate with their local high school CTE program, technical college, community college or university by joining an advisory board or similar committee to share ideas and suggestions from the private sector perspective. These discussions help our educational institutions’ continue to align new degrees, certificates and programs with industry needs.

The Salt Lake Chamber is fortunate to have exceptional education leaders on our Board of Governors including the state K-12 superintendent, the commissioner of Utah’s System of Technical Colleges and the presidents from six of our local colleges and universities. We appreciate their engagement with us as we continue collaborating to find creative solutions to workforce challenges.

As we anticipate the beginning of a new school year, keep in mind that one of the most meaningful ways the business community can make a difference for Utah’s students and our economy is by simply getting involved. Engage with Talent Ready Utah, join an advisory committee at your local college, or collaborate with other businesses in a pathway program. By thinking creatively and working together with our education leaders, we can help develop our state’s emerging workforce, equipping them with the right skills to be successful and ensuring a more prosperous economic future for everyone.