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University of Utah policy students win national competition

Published: Thursday, April 3 2014 1:54 p.m. MDT

A team of three graduate students from the University of Utah recently won the national Policy Solutions Challenge competition in Washington, D.C.

Jordan Allred, Deseret News

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SALT LAKE CITY — A team of three graduate students from the University of Utah recently won the national Policy Solutions Challenge competition in Washington, D.C.

Laura Briefer and Anna Brower, in the U.'s public administration master's degree program, and Clare Tobin Lence, working on master's degrees in both public health and public policy, had already bested teams from the University of Southern California and University of Washington in the Western regionals before winning the national honor.

In the annual competition, teams of students are challenged to develop innovative solutions to policy problems facing the country. Judges were from federal agencies, including the U.S. Department of Labor.

This year's topic was improving employment and earnings outcomes for workers 18 to 25 — an age group that has been significantly affected in finding quality employment since the financial crisis of 2008.

"The team was successful because, together, they developed politically feasible and innovative solutions," said Thad Hall, director of the master of public policy and public administration programs at the U.

The team's three solutions included reforming and expanding the National Registered Apprenticeship Program to further develop cost-effective and reciprocal opportunities for meeting employers' needs while allowing young workers to obtain in-demand skills; promoting increased use of Career Academies in secondary schools to boost both academic performance and students' chances at securing post-graduation employment; and expanding microenterprise opportunities that will provide young entrepreneurs with opportunities to create business and nonprofit enterprises.

Brower recently moved from the development director position at the American Civil Liberties Union to a contract public policy advocate position. Briefer is the water resources manager for the Salt Lake City Department of Public Utilities and has 20 years of experience working in natural resources and the environment. Tobin Lence is project coordinator at the nonprofit HealthInsight, working to improve the quality of health care.

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