Lawmaker suggests Utah changes the way it teaches in order to fill better paying high-tech jobs

SALT LAKE CITY -- Senator Howard Stephenson is advocating for Utah’s education institutions to catch up to the demand for graduates in science, tech, engineering and math.

He says a STEM related degree pays twice as much as the general population will make over a life time of earning.

His concern is that young people are not being informed about the demand and how it can give them more job security. He also says legislation is not supporting technical degrees as readily as they do four-year university degrees.

He noted that Utah spends $2.3 billion on post-secondary education but that more than half of those that do complete their degrees are in fields where they cannot get a job in that field.

Stephenson's recommended solution to the problem is for legislators to start rewarding higher education institutions for completion in areas that employers can't meet their needs.

Stephenson also advocates getting a stack education where students get certificates first and start in the workforce sooner. The idea is to stack on more education over time verses doing a traditional four-year degree. He claims it can yield higher income faster for STEM graduates while they occur less debt.

Not everyone agrees.

"There is a false premise floating around in this state that students can do everything with stackable credentials," University of Utah Dean of Engineering Richard Brown said.

Brown says certificate and technical degrees are often not based on what’s needed for a career in engineering. As an example, Brown says the certificates often don’t have the calculus-based requirements.

But Stephenson thinks a stack education is better.

"If students knew that a nine-month certificate would earn them significantly more than a non stem related bachelor’s degree I think they would choose that first.”

For more information on The University of Utah’s engineering programs, click here.

Here's another tool Stephenson recommends future college students utilize.