MURRAY — Gov. Gary Herbert charged Utah's high schoolers Wednesday with seeking post-high school education in larger numbers than ever before.
Herbert's message echoes discussions lawmakers and higher education officials have had over the past year with research showing a changing job landscape that will necessitate more associates, bachelors and masters degrees.
"Research has shown that by the year 2020, two-thirds of the jobs in Utah will require a post-secondary degree or some kind of certification." Herbert said. "Continuing your education past high school is not only a necessity, it's an investment."
Wednesday's address was broadcast via the Utah Education Network and was the first statewide, live gubernatorial speech geared toward high school students. About 110 schools participated via live Web streaming.
Herbert said the digital age and changing job market demand a highly-educated workforce in order to compete.
"When you go out to the world to start your careers, you're not just going to be competing with the graduates of Utah State University and Dixie State, you'll be competing with the graduates of the University of Beijing in China," he said.
Herbert fielded education-related questions from students in Orem, Rich County, Murray and Emery County. Samantha Pannier, a senior at Murray High and secretary of the school's chapter of the Honor Society, asked the governor about educating young women.
"A recent Utah Valley University survey showed that many young women in Utah don't feel a college education is important. How do you think that perception can be changed?" Pannier asked.
Herbert called the results of that study a "troubling trend," and sought the input of colleague Rep. Ronda Menlove, R-Garland.
Menlove said, "It is more important now than it ever has been for a young woman to get a college education."
Menlove said nearly every young woman in Utah will have a job at some point in their life, and a college degree will expand their options.
"There are no limits on our young women," she said.
About 62 percent of women in Utah are currently employed and 74 percent of mothers of school-age children have jobs, according to the Utah Department of Workforce Services.
"Women who have a college degree also are happier with their jobs, it's easier to find a job, and actually they're healthier," Menlove said.
In an interview following Herbert's address, Pannier said she occasionally hears from classmates who view college solely as a pathway to marriage, but it's something that's becoming less and less common.
"Unfortunately, that is an attitude, but it's a stereotype I'm seeing more and more that's being broken," she said. "If women want to be able to compete, they need to be able to have the degree to back it up."
Herbert responded to other questions about concurrent enrollment, funding, high school counseling and lessons he learned in his high school experience, all the while emphasizing how necessary continuing education is.
"Education will open your minds and expand your horizons. It will help you understand your aptitude and interests," Herbert said.