The Salt Lake Valley could become home to two new applied technology centers, specifically serving high school students and designed to meet the demand for increased job training skills.
Under a proposal from the Wasatch Front South Applied Technology Center Service Region Board, facilities would go up in the north and south ends of the valley, with a satellite facility in Tooele. The board's proposal includes separating funds into public and higher education coffers rather than continuing a mixed pot.The State Board of Education Friday applauded and accepted the proposal Friday. It now will be forwarded to the Joint Liaison Committee, whose members include public and higher education representatives and business executives.
"We see this as a very, very important issue," said Ron Stephens, superintendent of Murray School District and chairman of the service region board. "I think this is an exciting step."
Utah's existing nine ATC service regions serve adults and youths and are governed by superintendents, college presidents and business representatives. But general oversight and budgeting authority for all applied technology education is vested in the public school board.
The Wasatch Front ATC Service Region is one of several areas of the state not currently served directly by a center. The region includes Salt Lake City, Jordan, Granite, Murray and Tooele school districts. But space is so limited for applied technology training available in several locations, including Salt Lake Community College, that interested youths are turned away, said Rob Brems, associate superintendent of applied technology education. High school students must compete with adults for limited services.
While the school districts enroll nearly 190,000 potential applied technology students, fewer than 1,000 are able to take current classes, Brems said.
The business community's demands for job training skills for fresh high school graduates far outpaces the prospects.
"We're in a prospective employee crunch in a big way," said Grant Hurst, state school board member.
The ATCs would require additional legislative funds. Centers cost $25 million to $30 million to build, Brems said, but a Salt Lake City ATC could receive federal funds because of high numbers of students who meet poverty criteria. The satellite ATC would cost around $1 million, maybe less if it were housed at Tooele High School.
ATC funds now criss-cross between higher and public education budgets, since both entities direct ATCs.
But under the proposal, the Wasatch Front service region's funds for the proposed ATCs would be forwarded to public education coffers, as they would serve high school students only. The centers would be governed by the state school board and affected school districts.
Funds for adult applied technology training in the area would be governed by the State Board of Regents and operated by Salt Lake Community College.
The proposed ATCs would be state-of-the-art, user-friendly job training facilities near light rail, freeway ramps and other public transportation routes.
No sites have been selected for the ATCs, but Brems says the state office has looked at sites in the Gateway Project and midvalley areas.