Kristin Murphy, KSL

New tool aims to connect out-of-work Utahns to job training from colleges, companies

By Annie Knox, KSL | Posted - Jul. 29, 2020 at 7:21 p.m.



SALT LAKE CITY — A new online tool seeks to help Utahns who lost their jobs in the pandemic connect to training that could help them find work in sectors that are hiring, like technology, manufacturing and health care.

Colleges in Utah have long offered certificate and training programs. But the business and education leaders behind the SkillUpUtah initiative say they created a one-stop shop for job seekers to browse those programs and others from companies like LinkedIn and Pluralsight.

“It’s not a set program or a set curriculum,” Trent Kaufman, CEO of the management consulting firm Cicero Group, said at a Wednesday news conference announcing the tool. “It’s a centralized hub of curated resources available to unemployed and underemployed.”

A person can also connect with mentors and show up on the radar of employers, who can then make offers on the platform created by the Utah-based advertising agency Struck, Kaufman said. While some of the trainings are free, others are being offered at a discount.

The announcement of the new resource comes as many in the Beehive State have returned to work but still tens of thousands of Utahns remain unemployed. After the state reopened in May, unemployment claims dipped from a high of nearly 126,200 that month down to roughly 88,100 for the week ending July 18, according to data from the Utah Department of Workforce Services, the most recent available.

The current employment crunch redefined a longer-term plan to help more Utahns land in-demand jobs, Kaufman said.

Utah Valley University President Astrid Tuminez said it’s important to strengthen ties between education and industry, and to ensure workers are continually getting new training.

“But we don’t stop there,” she said. “The student is not just an automaton that we’re just processing to become a worker, to become a cog somewhere. We’re also a yes to broader, deeper, greater education, whether it’s about history, democracy, learning how to communicate or to collaborate, to have empathy in the age of artificial intelligence.”

The initiative will draw some of its funding from money made available in the federal coronavirus relief bill.

Utah lawmakers set aside $9 million of that money for job-training programs within the state’s network of public colleges, helping to provide scholarships for tuition, books or other materials, said Jessica Gilmore, associate commissioner for workforce development in the Utah System of Higher Education.

Gillmore said the state system is focused on helping not just those who have lost jobs or had their hours cut, but also workers who are vulnerable to layoffs and want to boost their skills to become more valuable.

An advisory committee of employers is helping determine the sorts of trainings from the universities, colleges and technical schools under the umbrella of the state system, added Dave Woolstenhulme, commissioner of the Utah System of Higher Education.

Those seeking lessons ranging from just a few hours to more long-term training can also take courses online from nonprofit universities or the fully online BYU Pathways Worldwide. An initial group of programs has been posted, with more set to follow, Kaufman said.

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