August Miller, UVU Marketing
According to that Kem C. Gardner Policy InstituteIn 2020, Utah had 238,400 full-time and part-time engineering and computer science jobs generating $19.1 billion in revenue, or approximately 15% of Utah’s $200 billion economy.
As this workforce grows, the Utah System of Higher Education (USHE) is trying to keep up with the state’s thirst for more engineers and computer scientists. For example, the number of engineering and computer science graduates from all Utah colleges combined increased from 1,540 in 2000 to 3,700 in 2020. Despite these positive graduation results, there are 3,000 to 4,000 engineering job openings in Utah each year.
A driving factor for the ever-increasing demand is the rapid growth of companies and startups in Silicon Slopes, primarily in Utah County. Keeping up with this growth has been difficult. The talent shortage has forced some companies, like Qualtrics, to set up offices elsewhere or leave the state altogether.
Utah Valley University (UVU) leaders work tirelessly to increase the number of engineering and computer science graduates. “We are hiring several new faculty members in the mechanical, civil and electrical engineering disciplines over the coming year and will really focus on where UVU can add value to this engineering discipline overall,” said Kelly Flanagan, Dean of Scott M. Smith College of Engineering and technology at UVU. “We can train engineers who are very dedicated, very willing to get to work, willing to do real-world things, and do it in a way that really meets the needs of our regional industrial partners.”
In 2021, Qualtrics co-founder Scott M. Smith and his wife Karen donated $25 million towards a new engineering building and improved programs at UVU. The Smiths’ gift launched a private campaign to raise $40 million needed to begin construction of a 180,000-square-foot, five-story building that will be named the Scott M. Smith Engineering and Technology Building. UVU will seek the bulk of funding from the state Legislature, but the early confidence and commitment of industry leaders like Scott Smith underscores the importance of this project to Utah’s tech economy.
Jay Drowns, UVU Marketing
By constructing a new building on the Orem campus, UVU will create more space for in-demand programs such as computer systems, software development and web development. “There will be spaces for flying drones and drone research, smart grid electric projects and a lot of other things,” Flanagan said.
Currently, the College of Engineering and Technology is spread across several buildings, including the Gunther Technology Building and the Computer Science Building, which were constructed more than 20 years ago. After two decades and significant student and program growth, the college’s needs have far exceeded the capacity of the buildings.
A great deal of time has been invested by faculty and administration to ensure that the Smith Building is suitable for the university and the students. “That’s going to be the hallmark of our building — an engineering and technology building that’s built for students, and that’s going to be really fun,” Flanagan said.
According to Flanagan, the Smith Building will be outfitted with smart sensors to monitor structural loading, heat gain and loss, and key internal and external environmental factors. It will use virtual and augmented reality to educate students and visitors on cybersecurity, structural design, building heating and cooling needs, human thermal comfort, indoor and outdoor air quality, water and energy use and waste, and sustainability. Temporal data is collected and used as part of an AI system to make the building more responsive to environmental factors and efficiency requirements. The insights gained through AI will teach students how to design more efficient buildings in the future.
In addition, the Smith Building will be a popular meeting place with a restaurant and other amenities. “We are very excited to add a restaurant to the top floor, likely operated by UVU’s Culinary Arts program, which will be open for lunch and dinner several days a week,” Flanagan said. “It will also be open before performances at the Noorda Center for the Performing Arts. We hope it has that taste.”
Maria Corona, UVU Marketing