August Miller, UVU Marketing
According to the Kim C Gardner Policy InstituteThere were 238,400 full- and part-time engineering and computer science jobs in Utah in 2020, generating $19.1 billion in earnings, which is about 15% of Utah’s $200 billion economy.
With growth in this workforce sector, 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 of Utah’s colleges combined increased from 1,540 in 2000 to 3,700 in 2020. Despite these positive graduation outcomes, Utah has 3,000 to 4,000 engineering jobs annually.
The driving factor behind the ever-growing need is the rapid growth of companies and startups in Silicon Slopes, primarily located in Utah County. Keeping up with this growth has been difficult. A talent shortage has forced some companies, such as Qualtrics, to add offices elsewhere or leave the country altogether.
Leaders at UVU are working hard to increase the number of engineering and computer science graduates. “We’re hiring several new faculty members next year in mechanical, civil, and electrical engineering, and we’ll really focus on where UVU can add value to this engineering discipline as a whole,” said Kelly Flanagan, dean of the College of Engineering. Scott M Smith College of Engineering and Technology at UVU. “We can train engineers that are very advanced, very ready to go to work, ready to do things in the real world, and do it in a way that meets the needs of our regional industry partners.”
In 2021, Qualtrics co-founder Scott M. Smith and his wife, Karen, awarded $25 million to build a new engineering building and improved programming at UVU. The Smiths’ gift has launched a private campaign to raise the $40 million needed to begin construction on the five-story, 180,000-square-foot building, which will be called the Scott M. Smith Engineering and Technology Building. UVU will seek the bulk of the funding from the state legislature, but the early trust and commitment from industry leaders like Scott Smith underscores the importance of this project to Utah’s tech economy.
Jay Drones, UVU Marketing
By constructing a new building on the Orem Campus, UVU will provide more space for required programs such as computer systems, software development, and web development. “It will have spaces for drones and drone research, smart grid electrical projects, and a lot of other things,” Flanagan said.
The College of Engineering and Technology is currently spread across several buildings, including the Gunther Technology Building and the Computer Science Building, both built over 20 years ago. After two decades and exponential growth in the student body and program, the college’s needs have far outstripped the buildings’ capabilities.
The faculty and administration have invested considerable time in making sure that the Smith Building is the right place for the university and the students. “This will be the defining feature of our building – an engineering and technology building built for students, and that will be a really fun thing to enjoy,” said Flanagan.
According to Flanagan, the Smith Building will be equipped with smart sensors to monitor structural loading, heat gain and loss, and vital internal and external environmental factors. It will use virtual and augmented reality to educate students and visitors about cybersecurity, structural design, heating and cooling needs for buildings, human thermal comfort, indoor and outdoor air quality, water, energy and waste consumption, and sustainability. The temporal data will be collected and used as part of an artificial intelligence system to make the building more responsive to environmental factors and efficiency needs. Lessons learned through AI will teach students how to design more efficient buildings of the future.
In addition, the Smith Building would be a popular gathering place featuring a restaurant and other amenities. “We’re really excited to include a restaurant upstairs that will likely be run by UVU’s culinary arts program and open several days a week for lunch and dinner,” Flanagan said. “It will also be open before shows at the Norda Center for the Performing Arts. Hopefully it will have that kind of flavor.”
Maria Corona, UVU Marketing