The jobs that today's 6-year-olds, like Emilee Moon, will someday hold haven't even been created yet.
In an increasingly high-tech world, that's enough of an incentive for Randy Moon, state science adviser. He says he will encourage Emilee's enrollment in a steady diet of math and science classes."Our education system turns off girls. All I'm trying to say is, `Don't give up options now,' " Moon said.
It's no secret that Utah students - male and female - approach math and science classes with about as much enthusiasm as getting their DPT vaccinations.
But the state's influential industry leaders agree that improving Utah's public and higher education systems is the key to economic development efforts - more important than the slick brochures, the catchy media campaigns and the high-profile junkets.
Val Finlayson, Salt Lake regional manager for Utah Power & Light Co., said that without increasing support for higher and public education, the state should forget throwing money away on any economic development campaign. Industry leaders want to locate their companies in areas where they can hire educated people, and where they can send their children to good schools.
That belief was the force behind a new report of the state's Advisory Council on Science and Technology. Focusing on mathematics and science education, the report was unveiled this week and calls for creation of a powerful independent committee to guide science education in Utah.
Moon said the report is significant because it gives industry leaders the chance to take ownership in the future of Utah's science education.
"This report will do absolutely nothing if it's received the way other reports are received and put on a shelf. That's why we recommend creating a committee of business and education people who would like to see Utah's kids do well in math and science," he said. "Then we feel that something will happen. I think it's too much for us to expect government and education leaders to shoulder the whole thing. I think as a community we've got to get behind this better."
Committee members admit that their report could be lost in the flurry of educational reform suggestions. The report isn't intended to make education officials defensive, and Moon said he doesn't want to be considered one of education's doom-sayers.
"A lot of people are doing a great job out there, but who's saying we can't do better?
"The education system should be anxious for suggestions, not defensive. I don't mean they should be open for any suggestions from anybody who writes on the back of a napkin. I would hope they would be willing to listen to some people with some expertise in science and the workplace in helping to expand the capability of the kids at an earlier age," Moon said.
Other recommendations in the report include creating a math and science education foundation, increasing science requirements for secondary teachers, and developing more advanced math and science programs in the elementary schools.