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State should invest in education to meet job growth, analyst says

SALT LAKE CITY — Investing in education will pay big dividends for Utahns willing to bolster their academic resumes.

A report by two Georgetown researchers indicated that 66 percent of all jobs in Utah — approximately 1 million — will require some post-secondary training or education beyond high school in 2018.

Between 2008 and 2018, new jobs in Utah requiring post-high school education and training will grow by 202,000, while jobs for high school graduates and dropouts will grow by 97,000, the report states.

The study also estimates that Utah would create approximately 477,000 job vacancies over the same 10-year period from both new jobs and job openings due to retirement.

"For every one new job Utah creates, there will be four job openings that will come as a result of older people retiring over the next 20 to 25 years" said Anthony Carnevale, director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce.

A great number of jobs in Utah will likely be in professional and business services, health care, information technology and education, he said. Those employers will want advanced training from prospective employees looking to fill vacancies.

Carnevale authored a recent study that projects jobs and education requirements state by state through 2018. The analysis showed that two-thirds of Utahns should have skilled trade certificates or academic degrees in order to meet projected 2018 Utah's workforce needs.

"Utah is a lucky state in the sense that it has the basic infrastructure (and) a strong industry base," he said. "One way to think about Utah and its future is that the jobs are probably going to be there. The question is 'Will they go to people from Utah or will they go to someone from nearby in another state?' "

The state ranked 24th in terms of proportion of its 2018 jobs that will require a bachelor's degree and 31st in jobs for high school dropouts.

Nicole Smith, research professor and senior economist at the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, said Utah has a great chance to grow its employment base if it can retain its brightest minds through increased education and career opportunities

"If you have gone to school and acquired (a) particular post-secondary certificate, degree or diploma, (then) you want to make sure you have a job that pays enough to make you want to stay," she said. "More educated workers are more productive — they earn more and they pay more (in) taxes, (which) is all positive in terms of generating the Utah economy."

The researchers presented their findings to Gov. Gary Herbert and other local leaders during a news conference Tuesday at the state Capitol.

Herbert warned against the trend of today's young people pursuing less post-secondary education than their parents. Two decades ago, Utah was one of the top states for the percentage of adults with college degrees. Utah now falls below the national average.

William Sederburg, Utah commissioner of higher education, said now is the time for the state to lay the foundation for educational, economic and employment success for all Utahns. He said he would like to see lawmakers consider new financial aid programs to help students better afford higher-education tuition.

"Our biggest goal right now is to sell the issue, to get the public mobilized around the need and aspire to the 66 percent," he said. "Once the public aspires to that (goal) for themselves and their family, then the money will come after that."