UW working to keep grads in Wyoming

Since its inception, the University of Wyoming has worked to prepare its graduates for the workforce. But UW President Ed Seidel said the college hasn’t always done enough to ensure there are job opportunities available in the state when students graduate.

“We know that 70% of our students leave the state, and not many come back,” Seidel said in an interview with the Enterprise. “It’s not good when 70% of our students leave the state, at least initially.”

Seidel tackled this issue during a “UW in your Community” program at Cody’s Holiday Inn on April 18. The program spotlighted how some UW students and staff from Park County are working to create job opportunities across the state.

Part of the presentation was focused on UW’s recently formed IMPACT 307 program in Park County, a nonprofit business incubator program, said local business counselor John Wetzel

The program is dedicated to helping “young and growing businesses find the resources they need to be successful,” he said.

These resources can take multiple forms, from networking events to business counseling, Wetzel said. In the case of the organization’s recent Start-Up Challenge event, the organization also provided a $50,000 seed fund that up-and-coming businesses could tap into.

The seed fund was awarded to three local companies — Point Blank Technologies, High Plains Gear and Highland Nursing Services — all of which are dedicated to creating jobs within Park County in the next five years, Wetzel said.

“One of the things that IMPACT 307 looks for is businesses that are scalable and innovative and really going to change how things are done in Park County,and bring revenue and keep revenue in Park County,” Wetzel said.

Another Park County resident who’s working to create jobs in the state is Powell’s Christian Bitzas. In addition to earning his master’s in Engineering from UW, he is also one of the founders of a startup called UplinkRobotics. The company, based out of Laramie, creates specialized robotics tools that can be used by firefighters, ranchers, law enforcement officers, contractors and others, he said.

Bitzas said he had the idea for the company midway through his bachelor’s studies at UW, and was surprised by the level of support it received.

“Without having any connections with the College of Business, without knowing any faculty members there, they just threw resources at me,” he said.

Bitzas said the company was “one of the best things to come out of the University of Wyoming for me,” and he has the goal of creating more jobs in the state.

In addition to working with people like Bitzas and Wetzel to create new job opportunities, UW is also striving to ensure students are prepared to fill existing job vacancies within Wyoming, Seidel said. For Cody and many communities across the state, that means supporting the tourist industry.

As such, Seidel highlighted the UW’s recent WORTH — Wyoming Outdoor Recreation Tourism and Hospitality — initiative. Its mission is to support, expand and diversify Wyoming’s economy through the outdoor recreation, tourism and hospitality industries, Seidel said. Phase one goals for the program include launching a Hospitality Management Certificate program for UW students.

“We’re making sure we put our energies into things that will really help grow the economy of the state,” he said.

Seidel also said he was excited about the recent launch of the School of Computing, which he said would provide all UW students — regardless of their major — with valuable technological skills they can bring back to their hometown communities. UW is also partnering with community colleges across the state to launch similar programs, he said.

“We’re not trying to create more computer scientists necessarily, although that’s not a bad thing,” Seidel said. “In everything we do, we’re trying to make sure students have the skills they need to drive the future of the state forward.”

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