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New report reveals trends in Utah's booming tech industry

Northridge High School's Kendra Connerly and Tate McRoberts study software engineering at the Davis School District’s state-of-the-art Davis Catalyst Center in Kaysville on Tuesday. A new report revealed key findings as the the need for the engineering and computer science workforce has emerged across industries.

Northridge High School's Kendra Connerly and Tate McRoberts study software engineering at the Davis School District’s state-of-the-art Davis Catalyst Center in Kaysville on Tuesday. A new report revealed key findings as the the need for the engineering and computer science workforce has emerged across industries. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)


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SALT LAKE CITY — Utah's engineering and computer science workforce generates $19.1 billion and represents 12-15% of the state's economy. A new report released by the University of Utah Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute on Tuesday revealed this and other key findings as demand for the workforce has emerged across industries.

The engineering and computer science trade generated 238,400 full- and part-time jobs in 2020, according to the report. As technology continues to develop and become increasingly utilized across industries, the number of jobs in those spaces will grow.

Technology and software companies have continued to opt for Utah's Silicone Slopes, bringing a number of jobs to the state. Future growth in Utah's engineering and computer science employment exceeds other occupations' projected growth through 2028, the report said.

The growth in the state's engineering employment has outpaced the U.S. engineering employment more than fivefold since 2000. Additionally, Utah's computer science employment has outpaced the nation by more than double in the same time period.

Are there enough Utahns to fill the jobs?

The short answer is no. The rate of growth has outpaced the in-state labor availability and is predicted to continue to outpace it, according to the report.

Gardner Institute researchers and stakeholders emphasized the importance of anticipating future employment growth in strategic sectors to build on its success during a roundtable Tuesday.

"If you look at the growth in the tech economy — it pretty much directly tracks the number of graduates that we've been producing. Of course, Utah does import a lot of engineers and computer scientists from outside the state because we still aren't graduating nearly enough to meet the needs of our own Utah companies," said U. Engineering Dean Richard Brown.

The group pointed to the Utah Legislature and Gov. Michael Leavitt establishing the Engineering and Computer Science Initiative in 2001. The initiative added state support to increase the number of engineering and computer science graduates from the higher education system — and it worked.

The initiative has allocated $40.1 million in ongoing and one-time funds to support programs matching investments from higher education institutions.

Between 2000 and 2019, the number of state engineering graduates increased 115% and computer science graduates increased 147% — both outpacing national growth in the same eight years.

"We looked at the Utah economy and how to diversify. Since 2000, I think that if we looked at the Utah economy it was primarily a tourism economy, an agricultural economy, and a mineral extraction economy," said Steve Price, founder of Price Development Company. "One of the most powerful nutrients ... to the Utah economy and the U.S. economy are computer science and related engineering degrees."

What's the appeal of computer science and engineering?

As the need and utilization for technology continue to develop across industries, so does job availability for computer science and engineering graduates.

Along with availability are attractive wages, with Utahns in engineering jobs making an average of $96,000 annually, and computer science workers making $89,500 in 2020, the report indicated. Additionally, graduates in engineering and computer science employed in the state earn 31% more after four years and 59% after eight.

Where are the disparities in computer science and engineering?

While Utah's demographics continue to diversify, trends in the computer science and engineering demographics indicated that ethnic and racial minorities are underrepresented in the industry.

From 2015 to 2019, minorities represented 11.3% of the engineering workforce in Utah, compared to 28.6% nationally. In the same time frame, minorities represented 17% of the computer science workforce compared to the national rate of 36.9%.

While the numbers are below the national percentage, students of color who graduated with a computer science or engineering degree in Utah grew from just over 7% to 17% from 2000 to 2020.


The education systems are amazing but we have to show people that they belong and that their talents can be used to help solve some of the most important world's problems which is what technology did.

–Cydni Tetro, Brandless, Inc. CEO


Women were also noted as vastly underrepresented among Utah employees who graduated in engineering or computer science. The report found that one year after graduation, only 13% of Utah employees who completed the program in these fields were women.

"Our workforce is generally 50/50 in the state of Utah. We are nowhere near that in the computer science and engineering field," said Cydni Tetro, CEO at Brandless, Inc. "I think that in order to meet the demands of the workforce and the economic drivers we are also going to have to embrace many pathways for people entering the workforce and into this."

In addition to being underrepresented, women and minorities also experience a pay gap in comparison to their counterparts.

Gardner Institute analysts identified a consistent gender wage gap that varied over graduates' careers. The report found that "women in engineering and computer science made 14.6% less than men one year after graduation. This gap narrowed to 13.2% after four years, but widened to 25.7% after eight years."

While smaller in degree than women, racial and ethnic minority groups also experienced a wage gap. The report found that four years after graduation, minority graduates earned 6.8% less than non-minority graduates.

While the numbers are discouraging, there's been a push to diversify in the technology industry.

"It's a very concerted effort for us now to say: What's happening in culture, what's happening in companies, and how do we fix those in order to get those women to stay because we need them in the executive ranks as they further their careers?" said Tetro. "So, I think all you're seeing in the data, there's a lot of work to be done to make sure that we're having a diverse workforce, from the beginning all the way to the boardroom."

What can be done?

The U. researchers outlined several potential policy options to diversify and meet the increasing need, including the following:

  • Continuing to invest in engineering and computer science workforce development.
  • Invest and promote in child and youth programming related to science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
  • Make targeted investments in underrepresented groups.
  • Expand course offerings.
  • Adopt and invest in family-friendly policies.

"Much of the work that has to be done is broadening people's vision to see what they can become, and ... align with what their passions are. The education systems are amazing but we have to show people that they belong and that their talents can be used to help solve some of the most important world's problems which is what technology did," said Tetro.

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Ashley Fredde covers human services and and women's issues for KSL.com. She also enjoys reporting on arts, culture and entertainment news. She's a graduate of the University of Arizona.

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