A new Applied Technology Center will help Salt Lake Community College supply the workers that Utah's businesses need.

The center, which was announced Thursday during a news conference at the college, will bring under one umbrella a number of programs already existing and allow the school to respond quickly to new business and industry needs, officials said.The purpose is to provide short-term, non-credit specific training for jobs that become available in Utah, as well as longer-term, credit preparation for high-tech jobs, said SLCC Vice President Ann Erickson.

The availability of flexible training programs is a significant factor in being able to attract new businesses to Utah, said Lynn Blake of the Utah Department of Community and Economic Development.

"When businesses consider growth or expansion, by far the first priority is a skilled, productive work force," he said. Utah has a unique advantage in its great numbers of potential workers, whereas other states are experiencing a dwindling population in the working-age groups.

Market-driven training can respond quickly to provide the workers needed for a business considering locating in Utah or a business already here that needs to expand or upgrade workers' skills. The college already is involved in several programs that provide businesses with custom-tailored employees.

In addition to training, the center also will be a vehicle for technology transfer, identifying and demonstrating the applications of new technologies. It will conduct feasibility and efficiency studies and assist in the acquisition, installation and operation of new technological equipment. Training will be provided for management personnel facing new workplace situations as well.

Robert Isham of Union Pacific Railroad demonstrated the value of a close business/education partnership. He said the railroad has used SLCC to train and retrain workers throughout its system as technologies evolve.

UP is spending as much as $600 million per year on sophisticated new equipment, he said, and will have a need for training and retraining into the foreseeable future.

"We need two highly trained people these days to do the work that was done by 20 strong backs in the past," Isham said. The company uses such technologies as a direct telephone line and Fax machines to supplement on-campus training and provide students with a direct line to teachers.

The SLCC center also will give both adult and high school students in Salt Lake and Tooele counties access to the same type of services offered in the state's five Area Vocational Centers (soon to become applied technology centers), she said.

When the AVC concept was developed, four of the state's nine districts were not provided centers, including Salt Lake and Tooele. The state's master plan for vocational and technical education suggests the location of either centers or alternative programs in those districts. Utah Valley Community College has developed a center for residents in the Mountainlands area.

Erickson said a building on the SLCC campus will be emptied of other programs by October to provide headquarters for the Applied Technology Center.

Rand Johnson, who will be the center's director, said a combination of funds is being used to finance the ATC, including those that support existing programs, business contributions and college funds.

Also in the planning stages is a technology academy that will provide students in the five districts of Salt Lake and Tooele counties with expanded opportunities to acquire high-tech skills while still in high school. Up to two years of concurrent education, with time split between the public school and the SLCC program, will see some students ready for jobs when they get their diplomas.

The SLCC center strengthens the vocational and technical role of the college and reinforces the dedication of higher education to this aspect of its mission, said Max Lowe of the Commission for Higher Education.