New FutureReady Program To Bring More High Wage Jobs and Skilled Job Training to Southern Utah4 min read

From Becki Bronson, SUU Community & Government Relations

Southern Utah University (SUU), in partnership with Utah Tech University and Snow College, has forged a five-year collaboration called FutureReady Utah, to increase high-wage jobs and skilled job training in the 11 counties of southwest Utah.

FutureReady Utah connects rural areas to training and increased access to jobs in key industries that offer high wages, like computer technology, aerospace, advanced manufacturing, healthcare, finance, and tourism/hospitality. It also offers free training and workforce development for businesses throughout southern Utah.

Funded by the Economic Development Administration (EDA), and supported by rural chambers of commerce and economic development leaders, the free FutureReady Utah program works with the region’s three higher education institutions to develop and deliver needed high-wage job training, while a Regional Coordination Council (RCC) creates practical pathways that are affordable, accessible, and serve as short-term entry points to high-wage jobs.

The RCC is made up of more than 30 economic development agencies, including the Governor’s Office of Economic Opportunity, Five County Association of Governments, Six County Association of Governments, Inland Port Authority, Rural Utah Chamber of Commerce, Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah, Small Business Development Center, and county and municipal economic development directors.

“Connecting our local business owners to resources and training is vital to guiding communities and families toward long-term success,” said Melynda Thorpe, assistant vice president of SUU Workforce and Educational Opportunity and FutureReady Utah program executive director. “The many agencies coming together to support FutureReady, including our three regional higher education institutions, shows just how important this project is to prioritize and champion a bright future for southwest Utah.”

Who is Part of FutureReady Utah?

In addition to the three higher education institutions (SUU, Utah Tech, and Snow), FutureReady Utah includes 16 chambers of commerce, 10 business innovation centers, and two economic development districts, all located within Beaver, Garfield, Iron, Juab, Kane, Millard, Piute, Sanpete, Sevier, Washington, and Wayne counties, along with the Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah.
FutureReady Utah currently rotates lunchtime Business Leader Academy workshops in each of the 11 counties, broadcasting them at the same time to rural employers throughout the region. Workshops teach opportunities and barriers for rural business, costs and causes of turnover, how to lead new generations in the workplace, and onboarding teams in a way that strengthens job longevity. Businesses and economic leaders help guide the curriculum on topics they need and want, and are centered around strategies for economic resilience, business innovation, and workforce development. These workshops are free and open to all.

What are the Goals of FutureReady Utah?

The four goals of FutureReady Utah:

1) Provide business owners with free, personalized connections to resources to facilitate business growth and expansion to new markets.

2) Develop short-term educational pathways to connect skilled employees with high-wage employers.

3) Give free training to local employers to grow loyal teams and employee retention.

4) Designate FutureReady Utah Worksites as locations where employers are prepared to meet the demands of an evolving workforce and economy.

When Did FutureReady Utah Start?

FutureReady Utah was created in response to a post-pandemic research study, conducted by SUU and Utah Tech researchers, that examined trends in the southwest Utah workforce. The study found there was a critical impact on the local workforce from rapid population growth, subsequent rising housing costs, emerging online work opportunities, and gaps in high-wage skills attainment in rural areas.
The FutureReady Worksites programs were created from that study, to provide practical and successful solutions to those impacts, which, left unaddressed, create potential for crippling economic impact. Seeing the critical and urgent nature of these problems, the three higher education institutions collaborated to design a prescriptive response and to financially match an EDA grant to fund the $2 million resiliency project.

“We are passionate about the future of southern Utah, and this extremely important work brings rural leaders together to help solve the evolving needs of our region’s workforce and economy,” said Stephen Lisonbee, associate vice president for SUU Community Outreach and Engagement. “Those of us from southern Utah have seen the rapid changes and challenges that come with growth. FutureReady Utah is tackling those challenges head-on, and ensuring that our families in southern Utah can stay in southern Utah to work, live, and raise their families as these programs keep our area a safe and economically strong part of our state.”
FutureReady Utah staff at SUU include Melynda Thorpe as program executive director, Aimee DiBrienza as training academy administrator, and Susan Palmer as targeted outreach coordinator. Staff at Utah Tech include Kyle Wells, Wyatt Anderson, and Benjamin Welch as targeted outreach coordinators. At Snow College, Kenley Steck serves as a targeted outreach coordinator.

For more information about FutureReady Utah, or to get involved in monthly workshops, email [email protected].


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