Opinion: Higher education is key to Utah’s future workforce

Higher education is not just about better jobs — it is genuinely about better lives.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Students begin fall semester at Utah Valley University on Thursday, Aug. 25, 2022.

Utah has been ranked for many years as the #1 economy in the U.S. for its economic outlook. We must keep producing a well-educated, highly skilled workforce for Utah’s vibrancy to continue.

At Utah Valley University (UVU) and Mountainland Technical College (MTECH), we believe higher education institutions are key to sustaining the state’s top-performing economy.

Like all Utah System of Higher Education (USHE) institutions, we work diligently to provide relevant quality education in today’s dynamic economy. Collaborating to maximize student options and align offerings with industry needs is critical. UVU and MTECH just signed an agreement allowing MTECH students in certain trades, including HVAC, electrical, plumbing, and welding, to receive UVU college credit for trades education once they complete apprenticeships. This will allow students to apply MTECH training toward associate degrees in business management since many will become small business owners. Last spring, we also partnered to enable MTECH’s Licensed Practical Nursing (LPN) Program graduates to enroll seamlessly in UVU’s Nursing Program.

Other partnerships provide Utah college students with real-world experience. For example, UVU collaborates with Silicon Slopes on a Master of Business Administration (MBA) program and with Pluralsight to give students access to cutting-edge online courses directly relevant to employment and industry. MTECH has also partnered with MountainStar Healthcare for radiology and surgical technology student scholarships and with Larry H. Miller and Ford Motor Company to benefit automotive technology students.

We are grateful for our industry partners who help shape the future of Utah’s higher education. We actively seek employer feedback to understand workforce needs. UVU recently launched the Jobs CEO Council, which brings together a dozen prominent Utah business leaders to help us map skills and competencies frequently missing when job applicants interview. Together, we are creating a blueprint to prepare students better for work opportunities now and in the future.

Like their peers at other USHE institutions, UVU and MTECH students can access a vast range of ideas, learning methods, class subjects, and program offerings. We believe a broad knowledge base will empower students with problem-solving skills and wider perspectives to succeed in work and life.

We’re proud of what Utah’s colleges and universities are doing to guarantee a strong workforce for Utah today and in the future. Still, we’re even prouder of higher education’s broader and more profound benefits. Those who pursue higher education are more likely to volunteer, live healthier and longer lives, participate in civic activities, strengthen the economy, and have stable families. In short, higher education is not just about better jobs — it is genuinely about better lives.

Astrid Tuminez

Dr. Astrid S. Tuminez is president of Utah Valley University.

Clay Christensen

Clay Christensen is president of Mountainland Technical College.

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