Session A: 9AM – 10:30AM

Business. Session A – Poster Presentations, Ballroom, Union

Location: Ballroom, A. Ray Olpin University Union


What Works In Reskilling?
Brenden Bodily, Utah State University

Faculty Mentor: Megan Jenkins, Utah State University

SESSION A (9:00-10:30AM)

Economies and technologies shift rapidly, which at times leaves workers behind with skills that are no longer as relevant as they used to be. Employers may also have difficulty finding employees who have the skills needed to take advantage of these new technologies. For example, the IDC estimates that the global shortage of web developers could rise from 1.4 million in 2021 to 4 million in 2025. My research asks the question: What works in reskilling? To answer this question, I review the academic literature and analysis from trade associations to examine best practices in reskilling workers for a changing job market. I look at ways that governments, companies, and educational institutions can help retrain displaced workers with the skills they need to stay competitive. Many large companies, such as Amazon, retrain their employees themselves to help them move into better jobs inside and outside of the company. Government programs also play a role in reskilling workers, and I examine what qualities make those programs more effective. Generalized “workforce development” programs that many states offer do not appear to be very successful at fulfilling either the needs of workers or the companies that would hire them. I compare examples of more generalized workforce programs like Utah, which has only a 36% placement rate, to more targeted programs in states like Maryland, which works directly with employers and has an 80% placement rate. As workers are equipped with specific, industry-relevant skills, they become more valuable in the job market and find fulfilling careers more easily. State and local governments should collaborate with local employers to identify the skills for which employers are most in need. According to those needs, funds could then be allocated towards putting workers through trade schools, coding boot camps, or apprenticeship programs, each of which has high placement rates into relatively high-paying jobs. This approach lifts workers into better careers and simultaneously fills the skills gap that employers are experiencing.


Opportunities and Constraints on Battery Supplies: Setting Policy for an Electrified Future
Matthew McCarthy, Utah State University

Faculty Mentor: Brian Isom, Utah State University

SESSION A (9:00-10:30AM)

In the span of a few decades, Lithium-ion batteries have gone from a relatively new technology to the foundation upon which many policymakers and entrepreneurs plan to build a carbon-free future. With demand for these batteries expected to grow exponentially in the coming years, it is crucial to ensure sustainable access to supplies in order to keep up with demand. Failing to do so could have major consequences for a green energy future. This paper explores many of the issues that battery supplies may face in coming decades, the impacts those issues may have, and possible solutions to reduce or eliminate those risks. Rare metals such as Lithium, Nickel, and Cobalt, are necessary to produce Lithium-ion batteries, yet there exist a number of barriers, both domestic and international, that could severely limit US access to these resources. These include a lack of domestic reserves, environmental risks from mining and extraction, and reliance on other, sometimes hostile nations for raw inputs and manufacturing capacity. In order to establish a strong and sustainable domestic market for batteries for both electric vehicles and electricity storage, policymakers and innovators should seek opportunities now to identify and solve these potential issues. Some of these solutions include growing sustainable mining and manufacturing in the US, focusing on increasing recycling capabilities for lithium-ion batteries, and incentivizing the innovation of new battery technologies that can reduce reliance on these rare-earth metals.


The State of US Transit Electrification and Associated Public Policy: A Quantitative Analysis
Tyler Rich, Utah State University

Faculty Mentor: Antje Graul, Utah State University

SESSION A (9:00-10:30AM)

Fostering widespread electrification of modes of transportation is a crucial agenda for economic, social, and environmental entities. The electrification of vehicles within the bus industry is still in its infancy, but we have already seen the far-reaching potential of electric public transportation within states such as Washington (Satterfield, 2020). This paper provides a broad, quantitative account of the current state of transit electrification within the United States. We draw from two large-scale transit authority datasets to examine the current state of the adoption of electric transportation with an emphasis on public buses. We have discovered factors generally present in agencies that have more widely adopted and employed electric buses, and we include important implications for managers and public policymakers involved in this adoption process. Some of these important factors include the source of funds, the bus manufacturer, and the current size of the agency. We conclude with avenues for future research and insights on how to progress the electric bus industry across the nation.


Utah’s Inland Port: The Future of Logistics in the Intermountain Region or Gambling with Taxpayer Money?
Austin Simonson, Brigham Young University

Faculty Mentor: Simon Greathead, Brigham Young University

SESSION A (9:00-10:30AM)

Over the last 20 years, US imports and consumer demand have steadily grown with no clear end in sight. Despite this, approximately 40% of all our containerized imports are processed through only two ports – the Port of Long Beach and the Port of Los Angeles. In 2021, these two locations alone moved over 10 million import containers. In order to help ease the strain on our nationwide supply chain – an issue that came clearly into view during the COVID-19 pandemic – in 2016, the University of Utah submitted an assessment regarding a possible inland port in the region and Governor Gary Herbert created the Inland Port Exploratory Committee to further the development of this concept. These plans were more formalized in 2018 with the creation of the Inland Port Authority and Inland Port, legal entities created by the Utah State Legislature in bill SB234. However, since its inception, the Utah Inland Port has come with its fair share of criticisms and controversy despite the organization’s claim that they will “future-proof Utah by creating a robust supply chain and establishing a trade and logistics hub for the Intermountain West.” Through the use of interviews with key stakeholders, analysis of past publications (including scholarly articles and media coverage), and retrospective analyses of other inland ports in the United States, this paper will seek to present detailed and objective findings regarding the proposed inland port project, including both the positive and negative impacts it would have on the region and a proposal as to its future.


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Utah Conference on Undergraduate Research 2023 - Program by Office of Undergraduate Research is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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