Boulder Economic Council Summit

 Good morning.

We are pleased to have you here on campus, and to be the presenting sponsor for the Boulder Economic Summit. It is especially gratifying for us to have you gather here, as we are our proud of the role we are able to play in support of our local economy.

Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedules to come and address this compelling topic that is so important to all of us – developing the workforce of the future. I especially want to thank the organizing entities and their leaders, the Boulder Chamber and John Tayer; and the Boulder Economic Council and Clif Harald.

Speaking of today’s workforce, I’m pleased to say that 10 days ago we graduated more than 8,000 students with flexible and adaptable skills. The ceremony honored fall 2017 and 2018 spring and summer degree candidates, including 6,063 bachelor’s degrees, 1,487 master’s degrees, 199 law degrees and 414 doctoral degrees. They are a remarkable group of young, enthusiastic people who are armed with the ability to be lifelong learners and adapt to changing work environments and demands.

I was interested to see a recent poll of 250 Colorado employers by Colorado Succeeds, a non-profit organization of business leaders. It found that 77 percent of employers struggle to find workers with critical thinking and problem-solving skills; and 62 percent have difficulty finding candidates with teamwork and communication skills.

We have worked hard, and continue to work to ensure that all these applied and workplace skills are included in our curriculum ­by design – in both lower and upper division courses, regardless of major.

I believe that’s one reason that 91 percent of our graduates enter the workforce or graduate school within six months of graduating.

The U.S. Department of Labor Statistics tells us that younger Baby Boomers have held a dozen jobs between the ages of 18 and 48. Predictive analytics tells us that Millennials will hold even more jobs throughout their careers.  So we are preparing our graduates not only for their first job, but for their fourth, fifth and six jobs.

It is incumbent upon us – ­ and any university –  to prepare our students for jobs that currently do not yet exist, using technologies that haven’t been invented, in order to solve problems that we don’t even know are problems yet.

A diverse workforce is also a high priority for employers. This includes diversity in ethnicity, gender and age. As William Wulf, former president of the National Academy of Engineering said, “without diversity we would have designs that are never realized, ideas that are never conceptualized and dreams that are never imagined.”

We have worked at CU to increase the ethnic and racial diversity of our student body and that work, and recruitment, is showing results. This year we had more than 7,600 U.S. students from historically under-represented groups. The diversity of our freshman class goes up every year. Last fall we had 27% ethnic minorities in our freshman class.

In five years, the College of Engineering and Applied Science intends to be the first school of its kind to achieve an undergraduate population of 50 percent women. Currently about 26 percent are women.

Engaging with industry

How can we work with you, in you giving you a skilled and diversified workforce now and in the future?

Here are a few examples.

  • 114 of every 1,000 jobs in Boulder County are STEM jobs according to, placing Boulder County third in the nation. 39 percent of our annual graduating class enter STEM fields, up from 26 percent 10 years ago.


  • Colorado has 400 aerospace companies with 25,000 private aerospace jobs, placing Colorado second or third in the nation in aerospace employees per capita. When we proposed an aerospace engineering complex, 19 aerospace presidents and CEOs signed a letter encouraging our Board of Regents to approve it. The complex will be opening late next summer.


  • Lockheed Martin is fulfilling a need by partnering with us on a radio frequency research center and developing curriculum to train future space engineers. Lockheed tells us that one-third of their engineers have at least one of their degrees from CU Boulder.


  • Admittedly, these are dramatic examples but our Office of Industry Collaboration, which is celebrating its fifth birthday this year, offers several ways that industry and business may want to engage with us. See Assistant Vice Chancellor Abby Benson if you need anything from a research contract to a new intern. Abby will you stand and wave?

     Again, we are so pleased to be the site of this important discussion today, and I’m happy to note that some of our faculty staff and students are serving as moderators and panelists today. In fact, one of our 2018 graduates, Katiana Hutchinson, is participating in the panel on Millennials and Beyond.  Be sure to attend that session and hear what she has to say about her generation.

    Thank you for coming.