The information technology industry, as well as the nation’s students and workforce, received an important policy boost this week when the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee passed an amendment to the pending immigration reform bill investing in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education. The Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA) views this support as a core element of the multi-pronged workforce policy solution needed to ensure the United States maintains its global economic competitiveness.
While information technologies continue to be the stalwart of the United States economy, our high tech companies have struggled to find an adequately skilled workforce and our students have struggled to obtain the necessary education and training.
As the U.S. Congress and President Obama advance immigration reform, as well as additional education and training programs, SIIA urges inclusion of the following policies:
- Investment in STEM education, including as provided by adoption of the Hatch amendment to the immigration bill this week, which will dedicate an estimated $100 million to U.S. Department of Education programs to help states boost STEM teaching and instruction (in addition to other STEM education funds directed to the National Science Foundation);
- Enhancement of the H-1B program to ensure that American companies can fill skilled jobs through foreign talent if a qualified American citizen is not available, including an increase in the arbitrary and insufficient caps as well as improvements to the process;
- Increasing the number of EB green cards for the best and brightest workers regardless of their country of origin, and easing the pathway for foreign students graduating from American institutions of higher education with STEM degrees to remain in and work in the United States immediately post-graduation; and
- Leveraging technology to redesign our secondary and postsecondary education system to increase learning opportunity and efficiency, moving from a system based on fixed time, place and pace of learning to one more customized around student’s individual needs and interest, including through investment in educational technology and digital learning.
Only with this multi-faceted policy agenda can the United States both address its current, short-term workforce needs while also growing the future pipeline needed to meet high tech workforce needs over the long-term.
Mark Schneiderman is Senior Director of Education Policy at SIIA.