BOUNTIFUL— There are open jobs out there, but most people don’t have the right education to fill them.
Jim Smith, CEO of the Davis Chamber of Commerce, said that some of Utah’s most robust job opportunities can’t be filled by those with a traditional four-year college degree. Manufacturing, plumbing and other trades are desperate for qualified employees, but no one is going through the training it would take to meet the necessary standards.
“There are hundreds of jobs out there we can’t fill, because we can’t find people with the right skills,” Smith recently told the Bountiful Rotary Club meeting at Joy Luck Restaurant. “Educations should be the means to an end, not the end itself.”
According to the 2013 Economic Summary by the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget, trade, transportation and utilities made up almost 20 percent of Utah’s total employment in December 2012.
Though employment in that sector grew by less than 2 percent in 2012, it still employs more Utahns than any other field.
Filling these positions, however, requires special technical training. Smith said that manufacturing is now mostly done with computers, requiring employees who understand specialized technology that might not even be mentioned in traditional computer classes.
“There’s some high-tech machinery in fields like heating and air conditioning,” said Smith.
Technical training schools, such as the Davis Applied Technology College in Kaysville, can teach students about the specific technology needed for those chosen fields. The school partners with local businesses to make sure training remains current and focused on marketable skills.
“We’re now sending our nurses to DATC instead of universities,” said Smith. “There are numerous pathways to a good education, but more of them need to meet the needs of businesses.”
Weber State University and the DATC have an equivalency agreement where students can transfer credits between the schools. Utah Gav. Gary Herbert’s new Prosperity 2020 plan also includes a focus on technical education, and plans to triple the number of Utahns with postsecondary certificates by 2020.
“It’s going to take 10 years for us to really see the impact,” Smith said.
When that time comes, Smith hopes that no business will be without the employees it needs.
“Educators and the business community need to start working together,” he said. “We need to put the right students in the right spots.”