I would like to have a vision of the future and work to make it a reality, rather than react to change.
Gov. Norm BangerterWhen executives of companies that move to Utah are asked why they chose the state, one of the attributes usually mentioned is the quality of the local work force: educated, motivated, and willing to put in a day's work for a day's pay.
It's a nice reputation to have, but one that can just as easily be lost. Thus, with the turn of the century only a dozen years away, the Governor's Utah Workforce 2000 Task Force convened for the first time last January to find ways to make sure the state's work force - among the nation's youngest - doesn't lose that edge. His charge to the group was this:
"Develop a set of policy options for key decision makers to consider as they promote policies and programs that will strengthen the Utah work force and economy through the year 2000."
The results of that nine-month study by a 39-member citizens panel were released Thursday. Utah Industrial Commissioner John Florez, task force vice chairman, terms the report a blueprint for maintaining and enriching the state's labor force as it heads into the 21st century.
The recommendations can be summed up in one word - education - but are broken out into categories aimed at five separate groups: citizens, parents, educators, employers and government. And it's not by accident, said Florez, that government is listed last.
"One of the premises we started with," he said, "is that this plan wouldn't call for more government spending but rather a greater accountability and better use of resources in the private sector, including parents and citizens. The challenge of strengthening our work force belongs to the people, not the government."
In this light, Florez said, the fate of the Utah Workforce 2000 plan does not rise or fall on the outcome of the three tax limitation initiatives on the November general election ballot. They hold true whichever way the voting goes.
Nor, said Florez, is the task force study a reaction to Utah's recent economic problems and statistics that seem to show that workers are leaving the state for greener employment pastures.
"We make a big deal of people leaving Utah, but I don't know if the facts really show we are different from any other state," said Florez. "There is a natural migration of people, but a lot of them come back."
Although the report stresses education of all workers, there is a strong focus on training and retraining the state's minorities, women, disabled and mature employees.
Among the study's projections for the year 2000 are:
-While the nation's work force grows progressively older, Utah's high birth rate means young workers (age 16-24) will account for the same share of the state's labor force in 2000 as they do today (27 percent), an economic advantage for Utah if they are properly educated.
-Even so, the state's labor force will mature by 2000 with those aged 35-54 accounting for 41 percent compared to 33 percent in 1986. This will create a "job squeeze" at upper levels.
-Technological change will accelerate, and Utah's economy will become more service oriented.
-Minorities will account for an increased portion of Utah's labor force, up from 7 percent in 1988 to 10 percent in 2000.
-Participation of women workers will increase but at a slower rate. By 2000, 62 percent of Utah women over age 16 will be working or looking for work. Pressures will mount for a restructuring of current child care benefits and standards.
In the report, Utah citizens are asked to:
-Accept personal responsibility for preparing for the rapidly changing economy and the higher skill levels of Workforce 2000.
-Recognize the need to be continually trained and retrained.
-Keep abreast of new technologies in your field.
-Participate in setting school polices.
-Give political support to educational reform.
-Welcome and integrate newcomers to the state.
Florez said the report will be made available to civic organizations, chambers of commerce, trade associations and others. Those desiring more information may call 533-2468 or write Utah Workforce 2000, Labor Market Information, P.O. Box 11249, Salt Lake City, 84147-0249.