The Department of Labor recently awarded the State of Utah a prestigious WIRED (Workforce Innovation in Regional Economic Development) grant. A number of private and state institutions are collaborating on this project to create a pipeline of skilled workers for today and beyond.
“The WIRED initiative will help us develop a quality workforce, a pipeline of workers,” said Craig Caldwell, Department Chair of Biotechnology at Salt Lake Community College, to a group of 50 life science professionals at the Utah Technology Council (UTC) event. “We must work together, starting in elementary school, to build an interest in the life science industry. Our future workforce will need to be dynamic as the culture in Utah continues to expand.”
The institutions that are a part of this exciting project include:
- Governor’s Office of Economic Development is the program lead for the WIRED initiative, and has the main goal of spreading the word about the WIRED initiative, expanding partnerships and providing oversight for statewide implementation. The overarching outcome is to support activities that result in a qualified workforce for the life science and technology-based industries in Utah.
- Department of Workforce Services acts as the fiscal agent for the WIRED $5.16 million grant. DWS also offers online employment exchanges for employees and job seekers. Additionally, DWS works with all WIRED partners in assisting their various milestones and goals.
- Granite School District is combating the problems associated with students having little or no opportunity to learn in a hands-on research environment. The solution will involve training programs that allow seamless integration directly from high school into Salt Lake Community College, where several certificate, degree and advanced training options are available to them.
- Salt Lake Community College is partnering with the Granite School District to develop and implement the Biomanufacturing Program at the Granite Technical Institute. The Biomanufacturing Program is the only program of its kind in Utah that will provide critical skills for the workforce to help support the changing needs of the Utah life science industry. This program will provide hands-on training for foundational manufacturing skills, including quality assurance and control, as well as teach students to work in a regulated environment. It will provide entry and exit points for high school and undergraduate students, as well as incumbent workers.
- Utah Valley University has established a four-year Biotechnology degree. Since its 2007 inception, 88 students have declared the major. UVU has already raised awareness of these new programs with four school districts and six schools by making concurrent enrollment courses in Biotechnology available. Additionally, UVU is partnering with Salt Lake Community College and offering the degree on the SLCC Jordan campus as a transfer option.
- USTAR —BioInnovations Gateway (BIG) provides the mechanism to mutually benefit research-based training, biotech start-up businesses and educational activities through the use of shared facilities, equipment, technical resources and talent, thus solving the problems of getting students hands-on experience and providing life science start-up companies access to state-of-the-art equipment, as well as trained technicians.
- Salt Lake City School District’s goal is to engage their students’ interest in science and math in grades K-9, thus building interest in the life sciences. Already there are several greenhouse labs placed throughout the District, professional development for teachers, and various toolkits and lesson plans to give students the opportunity to experiment and grow.
- Utah State University is engaging youth 16 and older to become involved with Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) during out-of-school time. The primary methods include service learning for students or peer-based mentoring.
- Westminster College’s major goal is to foster an interest in STEM careers for high school students and undergraduate students using the unique natural resources of the Great Salt Lake. Westminster has already established the Great Salt Lake Institute, and has marketed online curriculum materials to reach a broader audience.
- The Utah Science Center is committed to expanding high school, post-secondary students and adult learners the access to technical education across the region through interactive experience for informal science education. The first exhibit focuses on cell structure in plants and animals, and will be completed this summer. Following this summer, the next exhibit will focus on atoms and bio-molecules, with connections to nanotechnology.
“UTC is enthused to be associated with the life science and high-tech industries in Utah,” said Richard Nelson , President and CEO of the UTC. “Our state is truly on the cutting edge of a life science workforce explosion. It’s wonderful that this WIRED grant has been given to Utah, and that so many partners are willing and able to spread the work forward.”
For information on other UTC events, initiatives, or for UTC membership information, please contact Mark Lehnhof (801) 568-3500.
About Utah Technology Council
Utah’s premier professional association, the Utah Technology Council, has become the essential business resource for life science and high-tech companies seeking to achieve greater success. At its core, UTC exists to foster the Growth of the state’s over 5,000 technology companies, ensure Utah develops the highest Quality Workforce in the nation, and attract an ever-increasing array of Funding . Members join UTC to share insights with industry peers, counsel with government and academic leaders, and receive help from professional service providers and funding resources. To become a member of this “must join” organization, visit www.utahtechcouncil.org or call 801-568-3500 today.