We all know how important a talented workforce is to the health of Utah’s businesses and overall economy. With the growth of Silicon Slopes, Utah industries are going to require more and more highly-skilled and highly educated workers in the coming years.
Fortunately for us, Utah has a strong and vibrant system of higher education and technical colleges. Unfortunately, however, Utah is a net exporter of trained and educated talent. A recent analysis of census data shows that migrants coming to Utah from other states are less educated than Utahns leaving the state.
Senate Bill 104, Talent Development and Retention Strategy, is an effort to meet Utah’s workforce needs by incentivizing our best and brightest to pursue careers in high-demand fields and then stay in Utah and go to work at Utah companies.
Under SB104, every other year the Governor’s Office of Economic Development will determine five high-demand, high-wage jobs and their associated degrees that will qualify for a loan forgiveness program. Students who declare their intent to pursue a qualifying degree may receive a loan to cover the cost of resident tuition, fees, and books. For each year that a recipient of the loan works in a qualifying job in Utah following their graduation, the Board of Regents will forgive one year of their loan.
We offer many scholarships for students in Utah, this is one of the first to include an accountability component. If a student chooses to work outside of the state, or in a different field, they will be required to pay back their loan and those funds will be recirculated into the loan program for future students.
For our state to remain competitive in a modern economy we must retain more of the talent that we develop. Rather than Utah graduates going away to work in Silicon Valley, SB104 will help us keep more of our talented workforce here in Silicon Slopes, building up Utah companies and improving our economy. This bill will be a big step forward in preparing the talent that Utah needs to fill our high-demand jobs.
Dr F. Ann Millner was elected as the State Senator for District 18 in November, 2014. She is Chair of the Education Standing Committee and serves on the Economic Development & Workforce Services Committee as well as the Higher Education and the Business, Economic Development; Workforce Services Appropriations Committees.