Stephenson reprised his role as pitchman for the LifeApp web portal meant to guide students on their career and education paths, but this time backed up by Big Blue.---
Stephenson’s pitch was simple in not proposing new technology or new information, but a better combination of Utah’s existing resources with existing technology in the adoption of LifeApp--a web portal to be designed by IBM, for Utah students, teachers, eployers and policymakers to use.
Stephenson told a press conference today that LifeApp was as mobile and technologically current as today’s high school students.
“The tools we have to inform students now are very crude, crude reports, crude data, crude tools to inform students about their choices,” Stephenson said. “The application you are going to see today is not crude, it is very elegant. It’s what developers call ‘sticky’. Students will want to return to this app, employers will want to return to this app. Educators and counselors will want to make this a part of their daily lives.”
An IBM representative presented a mockup of how the web portal would work by showing different uses for different users. An access to the portal for policymakers like the Governor, would be able to list analytics about job market availabilities that could be compared to data on students applying for those jobs. That way decision makers could better anticipate job trends and work to help students better align themselves with their preferred job choices.
The presentation also came to grips with the “instant gratification” generation of young social media users in addressing how to get high school students to use the portal. Instead of requiring students to fill out a cumbersome profile from the very beginning, students can register basic information by simply logging in through an existing social media network account, like Facebook. Once registered the student wouldn’t need to fill out an exhaustive questionnaire to start seeing resources and career path options laid out for them. Rather the first screen would simply ask: “What is your dream job?” Student-users would then fill in three fields, add a zip code and begin to receive back information on career routes and possibilities.
The portal access for counselors would allow basic information to be already available to students and parents, which Stephenson argued would free counselors up for more personalized counseling.
The cost of the implementation of the portal was raised and Stephenson estimated appropriations for this year of several million dollars, though he had not determined an exact amount. Stephenson contends that Utah employees salaries and wages make up $54 billion a year, a strong number but one that is 80 percent of the national average.
“If we could change that to 100 percent we’d increase gross state product by $9 billion a year,” Stephenson said. The portal’s potential to connect employers with students interested in career paths that might land them a job at their respective companies, got the attention of several business and education officials who spoke favorably of the state investing in the technology.
“I’m here today to stand in support of [LifeApp],” said Alan Hall, Chairman of the Utah Technology Council. “Because this is the future, ladies and gentlemen.” W
hile the business crowd was ready to sing hosannas to the proposal to allow IBM to craft a full-fledged portal for Utah, Stephenson acknowledged that such a measure would not be welcomed by the existing higher-education system. “Public education and the higher education system will not embrace this. We cannot expect them to embrace this--it takes someone else like the Legislature to say ‘We will do it.’”