Business, education and government have joined forces to strengthen the state's economy.
In a breakfast meeting called by Gov. Norm Bangerter, 100 representatives from public and higher education, government and business launched the Utah Partnership for Educational and Economic Development, a collective effort to boost economic development.Higher Education Commissioner Wm. Rolfe Kerr said the partnership's origins go back several months to the State Board of Regents and State Board of Education.
The two education bodies independently but simultaneously passed resolutions creating task forces to look into how education could make a greater contribution to the state's economic development.
When it was discovered both were on the same track, they decided to form a joint economic development task force.
"It wasn't our purpose to find what what we needed to do to get more money for education. The idea is what can education do to enhance the economic competitiveness of the state," Kerr said.
That task force, which included education, business and government representatives, came up with an initial plan called the Utah Partnership.
The plan calls for the need to look at five major areas of concern: training; basic education; research; resources; and the image of Utah.
Under those five areas, the commissioner said, the plan outlines issues and action steps need to resolve them. Each action step is then identified as whether it is the responsibility of education, business and government or a combination.
A chairman, who is the chief executive officer of a major company or agency, was chosen for each area.
Kerr said each chairman will select a committee, who will address the feasibility of the issues and action steps, and chose any additional ones, if necessary.
"This is not just another study. These are action-oriented committees. Each has been given a time line for implementation for their plans," Kerr said.
He said completion date for the committees' work is September.
Depending upon the work of the committees, the action steps may call for such things as changes by the state's education boards or drafting of legislation, he said.
"From education's standpoint, we are asking business and government to step back with us as we ask the questions: `What are we doing now that we need to do better? and What are we not doing now that we need to do in the future to contribute to the economic viability of the state?' " Kerr said.