SALT LAKE CITY -- Funding higher education aimed at meeting the needs of a more demanding and global marketplace will be a key focus of the National Governors Association meeting this week in Utah, Washington state Gov. Chris Gregoire said Friday.
Gregoire said that as more jobs demand degrees beyond high school diplomas, it is imperative that states invest more in higher education and trade schools.
"Our work force is not prepared to meet the demands of the future," she said.
Governors from across the country are gathered in Salt Lake City through Sunday for the conference that will focus on improving education and boosting international trade, among other things.
The state leaders attended a forum Friday to discuss how to invest in higher education. They also listened later in the afternoon as governors from Chinese provinces explained the trade opportunities available in the country. Creating ties with China can prove valuable for states, especially in areas such as alternative energy development.
Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad said his state has benefited greatly from partnerships with Chinese companies to develop hybrid biofuels made from corn and soybeans.
"It's made a big difference to farmers in our state," Branstad said.
Governors attending the meeting said a key goal will be to share ideas in a nonpartisan way to find common solutions.
"We focus on issues concerning all states," Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman said.
He said governors also stand united in wanting the federal government to recognize the impacts of budget cuts to the states but, more importantly, they simply want congressional leaders to reach agreement on the national debt debate currently consuming Washington.
"We need the president and Congress to sit down and resolve this issue," Heineman said. "America cannot default on its sovereign debt."
Utah Gov. Gary Herbert said partisan politics must be removed from the debate if agreement is to be achieved.
Governors understand "that the party label only gets in the way," Herbert said.