Utah needs training programs matched to meet market needs, better publicity on the strengths of Utah public and higher education, performance-based curricula - especially in reading and math - and a college student research award program.
These are just a few of the myriad recommendations contained in a report of the Education and Economic Development Task Force, which was formally accepted by the State Board of Regents recently. The report was also presented to the State Board of Education in early December.Established more than two years ago, the task force was appointed jointly by the public and higher education boards to explore ways in which education could contribute more effectively to the economic development of the state. It developed the concept of The Utah Partnership for Educational and Economic Development.
"It has been one of the most productive times between public and higher education," said State Superintendent of Public Instruction James R. Moss.
"It brought together a number of people who hadn't been together before," said Commissioner of Higher Education Wm. Rolfe Kerr.
The task force representatives from education, business and government developed five major goals and then outlined specific recommendations to achieve them. The goals are contained in the report published this month.
Major objectives identified by the task force are: a focus on market-drive education, better utilization of resources, enhanced research and development efforts and an improved image of Utah's educational system.
Among the specific recommendations:
-Improve Utah market analysis.
-Assure a supply of highly trained engineers, scientists and managers of technological companies to meet long-term demands.
-Establish a project office that identifies needs and resources of education and business, matches resources with needs and establishes priorities for distribution of resources.
-Improve opinions, attitudes and perceptions toward Utah as a place for business growth, investment and expansion.
-Enable students with different backgrounds, culture, races and religions to feel welcome in Utah schools.
-Build reading literacy with adult population.
-Build skills for a global society.
-Consider special needs of minorities and women.
-Provide capital for research-spawned companies, other technology-based firms and economic development of existing companies.
-Increase research faculty salaries and number of endowed chairs at colleges and universities.
The overall goal is to enhance both education and economic development and to strengthen the state's economy.
"The whole idea is that they (task force members) focused on the how-to. They decided to deal with the goals in an action-oriented fashion, rather than just deal with concepts in a general way," said regent Donald Holbrook, task force chairman.
Holbrook said an ongoing organizational structure must be created to set priorities for implementing the recommendations.
The State Office of Education recommends $20 million in state funding over four years to finance them. The governor's proposed budget suggests $15 million over three years.