A lot of new knowledge, power and passion were unleashed in Tooele County last week and during the month of May. Where did all that exuberance come from?
Last week, the Tooele County School District presented 1,045 high school diplomas to graduates from six local high schools and the adult education program. Also this spring, Utah State University – Tooele Regional Campus, and Tooele Technology College, added to that impressive number with a combined 263 degrees and certificates to graduating students.
Heartfelt congratulations to every graduate. Your commitment to the pursuit of knowledge and self -improvement is applauded. Your achievement promises to benefit you greatly, but also offers universal benefit to Tooele County, the state and the nation.
Yet, when it comes to the county, that benefit prompts a question we’ve asked many times before: As a community, are we doing enough for more high school and college graduates to achieve their post graduation goals close to home?
It is regrettable that only a fraction of 2018’s high school and college graduates may choose to seek a career and start a family here, while the rest go elsewhere in search of greater opportunities. Evidence of that loss of educated and talented citizens is perhaps mostly speculative, and only tacitly understood by citizens and officials than supported by hard data. Yet, a partial answer may exist in the county’s newest unemployment figure.
At the end of April the county’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 3.3 percent, according to the Utah Department of Workforce Services. That low figure is impressive, but isn’t necessarily a clear marker of a robust and diverse Tooele County economy that offers a broad range of career and job opportunities. In truth, the county’s low unemployment rate remains closely tied, as it has for years, to what one economist calls the state’s “economic engine” — Salt Lake County.
According to DWS, 50 percent or more of the county’s workforce commutes eastward to earn a paycheck. The proof of that is seen every weekday morning and evening on state Routes 36 and 138, and on Interstate 80. The commuter congestion and delays have been a source of heated contention with citizens and officials for years — and likely will worsen as growth in Tooele Valley continues.
Which, one would think, would serve as a great incentive for local officials to push harder for more economic development that will result in more local, higher-pay careers and jobs — and get more commuters to Salt Lake off the road.
In time, it is hoped that effort will prove more successful. Local officials are encouraged to make it known the county is eager for new commercial and business development that fits here and further diversifies the economy.
Meanwhile, the Tooele County School District is commended for its vigorous work to improve student test scores and for having one of the strongest high school graduation rates in the state (91 percent). Plus, thanks to Tooele Tech and USU Tooele Regional, local opportunities for college degrees and vocational training continue to expand — and serve.
Greater opportunities for our graduates to stay here hold much promise. It is a worthwhile goal that will contribute much to the area’s quality of life.