Lawmaker promises changes to bill about career website

Published: Friday, March 4 2011 12:08 a.m. MST

SALT LAKE CITY — A bill intended to better inform students of career opportunities  passed a Senate committee Wednesday with the understanding the sponsor will further incorporate programs already in place.

SB305 would create a website and mobile application with information about the number of Utahns who graduate with degrees in various fields, how competitive certain fields are and salary information, among other things. Sponsoring Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper, unveiled the bill at a press conference last month, with plans to partner with IBM to develop the technology.

"We … have what I have referred to as a misalignment between the degrees being sought," he said, "and the career opportunities that our economy in Utah and across the nation are providing."

But after hearing from opponents, Stephenson asked the committee to vote in favor of the bill with the understanding that he'll address the public's concerns before the bill is heard on the floor.

Representatives from the State Office of Education and higher education systems asked that the sponsor look more closely at a similar program that is already in place. UtahFutures.org is a partnership between state workforce services, higher education and public education that was designed to fulfill the same purpose. It debuted last year, and was developed on a "shoestring budget," experts testified.

"I just want to make it very clear that this program is more than adequate," said Judy Park, associate state superintendent for student services and federal programs, of UtahFutures.org.

Kristen Cox, executive director of Workforce Services, asked that more funding be given to develop UtahFutures.org rather than start completely anew.

"We have the infrastructure in place," Cox said. "We absolutely acknowledge that it can be better."

Stephenson said he would keep that in mind as he reworks his current legislation.

"Utah Futures is pretty good, it is certainly not great," he said. "I'd like to move the bill to the floor and then work with higher education, Utah Futures, the Department of Workforce Services and public ed."

Stephenson also elaborated on a comment he made earlier in the session about "degrees to nowhere."

"I believe every degree is a degree to somewhere for some students," he said Wednesday. "But for those uninformed students … it becomes for them a degree to nowhere — at least temporarily."

Stephenson said a liberal arts education is a wonderful thing, but that doesn't change the fact that students are graduating from college with an education that does not match up with the jobs available.

The bill now moves to the Senate floor.

E-mail: mfarmer@desnews.com

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