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Representatives from across the nation have come to Utah to exchange ideas in an effort to create the lasting economic and employment prosperity they each strive for year after year.

SALT LAKE CITY — Representatives from across the nation came to Utah this week to exchange ideas about providing long-term economic vitality and well-paying job opportunities for residents in their states.

This week, the Governor's Office of Economic Development partnered with the Global Pathways Institute to host the Western Pathways Conference running from May 30 to June 1 at the downtown Hilton Salt Lake City Center. The conference brought together over 400 stakeholders to discuss solutions to pressing problems in education and workforce development, explained Kimberlee Carlisle, director of Industry and Talent Initiatives for GOED.

"Basically, they are coming to (learn) best practices from other states on what (those states) are doing well," she said. "This (event) provides us an opportunity in Utah to say, 'What are we doing in workforce and education that is working well?'"

In the Beehive State, the answer is Talent Ready Utah, she said. The initiative focuses on optimizing the efforts businesses make to enhance education, according to its website. The program assists businesses in becoming involved with education in activities including job shadows, internships, donations, industry tours and in-classroom presentations.

During the 2 1/2 day Western Pathways Conference, participants focused on building education and workforce development initiatives like Talent Ready Utah that help prepare young adults for careers that lead to economic independence, Carlisle said.

"These jobs are good-paying jobs (that) provide a family sustaining wage," Carlisle said. "We're trying to do more of that in Utah."

The conference involved action-oriented teams from participating states working together to address issues such as the skills gap, strengthening connections between business and education, providing high-quality career development and career pathways, Carlisle said. The event also included national leaders from business, education, government and philanthropy to share their knowledge, experience and ideas, she added.

"Right now, the fight for 'human capital' is front and center," said Jeff Wasden, president of the Colorado Business Roundtable. "(Our goal is) ensuring that all kids have access to a meaningful, significant and impactful pathway to college or career readiness."

The Colorado Business Roundtable looks for opportunities for young people and for others seeking a career "reboot" that is productive from day one, he said.

"The pathway toward economic prosperity and independence is something we all desire — the value of a (good) job," Wasden said. "We want to ensure that all folks across all sectors — manufacturing, the aerospace industry, financial services, energy or (information technology) — know that every one of those jobs has value and all require a different level of training."

Programs like Talent Ready Utah help to address industry needs while offering people opportunities that can result in fruitful employment in less time and at less expense, Carlisle said. Most programs can help participants achieve a professional certification in two years or less, she added.

Wasden noted that events like the conference are the key to getting collaboration between public entities, businesses and educational institutions that can create avenues to careers in thriving industries that are in need of qualified talent.

"Conferences like Western Pathways allow us to bring together those key stakeholders across government, across the private sector with our education partners to look for the right kind of solutions," he said. "We're looking for impactful, meaningful changes that can be made when we go back to our home states."

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The event was organized and hosted by the Global Pathways Institute at Arizona State University in conjunction with GOED, the Salt Lake Chamber, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, Business-Higher Education Forum, Education Commission of the States, Junior Achievement of Utah and the Colorado Business Roundtable.

"Talent is a top concern for many businesses in Utah and across the country," said GOED executive director Val Hale. "The Western Pathways Conference is an excellent opportunity to learn best practices and successes from other states to find unprecedented solutions to our workforce challenges."