We all know about the wonderful things that happen every day at the University of Washington. The educational experiences that transform the lives of students. The outstanding medical care delivered throughout the UW Medicine system. The cutting-edge research that has impact here and around the world. But rarely do people stop and think about the wide range of efforts and services needed to make all of this activity possible. Perhaps even more rarely do they consider the implications this has for Washington’s workforce.
With more than 42,000 faculty and staff, the University is the largest employer in Seattle and the third-largest in the state. Many of these positions have been generated by the tremendous success of our research enterprise. For more than 35 years, the UW has attracted more federal research funding than any other public university in the country, totaling more than $1 billion annually in recent years. This has led to the creation of thousands of UW jobs, including not just research positions, but also a large host of staff providing support for everything from administrative functions to facilities maintenance. In addition to these UW jobs, many others outside the University are supported indirectly through subcontracts, purchases, and the consumption of services.
Consider some of the numbers behind a typical $1 million research grant. Such a grant generates about 10 full-time equivalent positions at the University. Additionally, grant dollars go to support materials and equipment, subcontracts with local partners, utilities, building maintenance and so forth (see graph below).
The federal stimulus package has offered new opportunities for the UW to leverage its research excellence into jobs for our state. In the 12 months since President Obama signed the package, the UW has received almost $200 million in stimulus funding, resulting in the creation or preservation of jobs for almost 1,100 people.
Just as the discoveries made through research live on long after a study is concluded, the economic benefits of research funding also extend long after a grant has ended. Nearly 250 companies have been started by our students and faculty, or with UW technology, and around 9,200 people are employed by companies launched on UW research. Notably, many of these companies are in fields predicted to experience significant job growth, such as clean technology.
It is also important to note the essential role the UW plays not just in creating jobs, but in supplying skilled employees to do them. Washington’s workforce is filled with Huskies. In the current decade, the UW has granted more than 117,000 bachelor’s, master’s, doctoral and professional degrees. That’s 30 percent of all the degrees awarded by our state’s six public four-year institutions. More than three-quarters of these graduates have remained in Washington, filling skilled positions in the fields that fuel our state’s economy.
As we move forward in the economy of the future, the need for skilled, educated employees most certainly will not abate. The UW’s innovative research environment provides the perfect training ground for these positions. Thousands of Husky undergraduates take advantage of opportunities to participate in research with top UW faculty each year. Working in life sciences, information technology, clean energy and other cutting-edge fields, they are developing the knowledge base that every region needs to be competitive in the global economy. And in doing so, they are preparing not only to enter the workforce of the future, but also to become the leaders who will create the jobs of the 21st century.
Mark A. Emmert, ’75, President