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Governor touts education as key to state tech future

FILE — Utah Governor Gary R. Herbert speaks as he and fellow gubernatorial candidate, Jonathan Johnson debate at Little America Hotel in Salty Lake City Monday, April 11, 2016.
FILE — Utah Governor Gary R. Herbert speaks as he and fellow gubernatorial candidate, Jonathan Johnson debate at Little America Hotel in Salty Lake City Monday, April 11, 2016.
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

SANDY — Utah needs to make a sustained effort to create a technology workforce pipeline through education

That was the message trumpeted by Gov. Gary Herbert at an event to raise money to support underprivileged children at an area grade school.

Herbert joined several local business and tech leaders in serving a pancake breakfast to members of the community to raise money for Edison Elementary, one of Utah’s Title I Schools. A high percentage of children at the school are from low-income families.

“Education is the key to our success economically going forward,” he said in remarks to about 200 people following the breakfast. The state has invested an additional $1.8 billion in education over the past five years, he said.

“We need to keep having that kind of commitment for money and resources” he said. “We’ve got to attract the best and brightest (teachers) in the classroom and retain them. That means we probably have to increase teacher salaries some to accomplish that.”

The message resonated with Clint Betts, founder and chief executive officer of Beehive Startups — an independent organization targeting Utah's startup and tech community. He said education would be critical in creating a fertile environment for the next generation of Utah technology innovators.

“We need to educate our kids, particularly young girls,” he said. “Computer engineering is a career path for them, something they could aspire to. Entrepreneurship is also something they could aspire to. It’s not just for men.”

“It can’t just be a guy thing. It can’t just be a white guy thing, which is what this community is now,” Betts said. “In Utah, we’re not doing enough to get more young girls excited about careers in technology and entrepreneurship.”

He said that Utah currently has enough backing in its own tech community to help provide the resources needed to push the state ahead educationally and aid in the growth of workforce development.

“We don’t need government to take the lead,” he said. “We can take the lead and push government in an interesting direction.”

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