Utah’s life sciences industry is booming—so much so that there’s a gap between the workers that bioscience companies need to grow and the college graduates to fill those jobs.
A new partnership between the state of Utah, higher education, and life sciences industry leaders aims to keep Utah competitive globally by training and supporting students entering the workforce with highly technical skills. The University of Utah and Utah State University will be leading the effort to close that gap.
On Monday, Nov. 20, Utah Gov. Spencer Cox announced a Life Science Workforce Initiative that will kick off his administration’s priority to bolster bioscience at a press conference hosted at bioMérieaux.
“We know that this sector is part of the bright future of Utah,” Cox said. “We’re so excited for what is already happening here, but we have to meet the needs of today and the needs of tomorrow. And we do that by giving more opportunities to incredible students and companies here in the state of Utah.”
The goal of the initiative is to close the anticipated workforce gap between the needs of bioscience companies and the number of potential employees available. From 2012 to 2021, the state’s job growth in life sciences was the highest in the country, but Utah companies still need more workers. From biological technicians to specialized Ph.D. researchers, the skilled workforce degrees Utah companies need include biochemists, chemical engineers, materials scientists and others.
BioUtah, an industry trade association, teamed up with the Utah System of High Education’s Talent Ready Utah agency (TRU) to connect legislators with industry and university leaders from every state college and university to help state elected and education leaders better understand the needs of the life sciences workforce.
The initiative is modeled after the state’s Engineering Initiative, which was launched in 2001 to boost the number of engineering graduates each year and has increased Utah’s new engineer numbers by 240%. Like the Engineering Initiative, the state will provide financial incentives to Utah colleges and universities for additional high-yield degree graduates. The state estimates life sciences degrees could grow by 1,250 graduates.
University of Utah President Taylor Randall and Utah State University President Elizabeth Cantwell noted the benefits that the initiative will have in the lives of STEM students across the state.
“When we have state support and industry partners, magic happens,” said Taylor Randall, president. “The dollars flow, the economy grows and we educate students. Can you think of a happier story than that?”
As part of this initiative, Cox will be making a $ 7 million ask to the Utah legislature to support creating and expanding programs that connect students to real-life experience in Utah’s workforce.
“This is just the beginning,” the governor added. “We hope to do even more over the years to close this gap and to make sure that we have the best jobs available.”