Utah could be the leader in the high-tech revolution, but not if the state's young people fail to learn the skills needed in such an environment, the president of Geneva Steel says.
Speaking to community leaders and Provo School District employees at a luncheon Monday, Joe Cannon said business people interested in Utah are told how important education is in Utah and "much has been accomplished. Nevertheless, we have challenges ahead that will require collaboration by all."Cannon said Utah faces three major challenges. First, the state must continue to accelerate an upward trend in education under economic restraints.
The highest amount of state money is spent on education, he said, yet Utah has the lowest per-pupil funding and the highest pupil-teacher ratio. Utah also has the highest percentage of students in public schools.
"We need to increase tax revenue. It is essential for school budgets."
Despite the problems, there are heartening results, he said. Utah led the nation in ACT scores and in Advanced Placement participation.
The second challenge is the need to continue preparing for technological jobs as society changes, Cannon said.
"Utah shows great growth potential. I believe we will be the cradle of the economic renaissance right here in Utah County."
Cannon said Utah has a higher percentage of its population in high-tech manufacturing than any other state, and to remain competitive Utahns need to continue to train in various technological aspects.
The third challenge is to face international competition, particularly with Asian countries, he said.
"Japan's economic success is rooted in education. We sit around and moan about the Japanese taking over the country, but we can strive to make our companies more competitive. Let us aim for a bustling vital economy and schools, even if the rest of the country is complacent."
Cannon said the country has to go head to head with foreign competitors. "We need to work out of our financial problems and then we can get the best teachers and have the best educational environment."
The burden of educating youths can't be placed on the teacher's shoulders. Parents should bear the primary responsibility for educating their children, he said.
Parents should follow the example of Japanese parents, the strongest supporters of education. the Japanese spend many hours with their children teaching them and helping them with homework.
"We (Geneva Steel) don't think of ourselves as the education community, but we do have a commitment to education," Cannon said. He encouraged other businesses to do the same and support education.
"Let us aim to make Utah the crown jewel recognized nationwide and worldwide," he said.
The luncheon session, entitled "Partners with the Community," was co-sponsored by Geneva Steel and the Provo District Board of Education.