I try not to talk about anything political here but unfortunately, there are political issues that impact my ability to do my job; the availability of talent in the American workforce to meet our hiring needs. I’m not sure where I am going to be in ten years but at the rate we are going, I’m concerned. And everyone else that works for a tech company should be concerned too. Nice light blog post for a Friday, huh?
Bill testified in front of Congress this week regarding our public education system, H-1B visa caps and investments in public sector R&D. What these things have in common is their ability to keep us competitive, individually, as companies, as a society and as a country in the global economy. The world economy marches on, whether or not we have the talent to staff it here in the US.
Bill talks about both long term and short term remediation; about preparing our American students to take on careers in technology AND attracting the best and brightest from overseas. I don’t see it as an either/or prospect. If the work goes to other countries, it ain’t coming back, yet we force companies to set up operations in other countries because that is where much of the talent is; talent we aren’t allowed to bring to the US. Anyway, enough soapbox shenanigans from me. Here are some quotes from Bill’s testimony:
Our current expectations for what our students should learn in school were set 50 years ago to meet the needs of an economy based on manufacturing and agriculture. We now have an economy based on knowledge and technology. Despite the best efforts of many committed educators and administrators, our high schools have simply failed to adapt to this change. As any parent knows, however, our children have not — they are fully immersed in digital culture.
As a result, while most students enter high school wanting to succeed, too many end up bored, unchallenged and disengaged from the high school curriculum — “digital natives” caught up in an industrial-age learning model. Many high school students today either drop out or simply try to get by. For those who graduate, many lack the skills they need to attend college or to find a job that can support a family. Until we transform the American high school for the 21st century, we will continue limiting the lives of millions of Americans each year.
First, we need to encourage the best students from abroad to enroll in our colleges and universities, and to remain in the United States when their studies are completed. Today, we take exactly the opposite approach. Foreign students who apply for a student visa to the United States today must prove that they do not intend to remain here once they receive their degrees. This makes no sense. If we are going to invest in educating foreign students — which we should and must continue to do — why drive them away just when this investment starts to pay off for the American economy?
Barring high-skilled immigrants from entry to the U.S., and forcing the ones that are here to leave because they cannot obtain a visa, ultimately forces U.S. employers to shift development work and other critical projects offshore. This can also force U.S. companies to fill related management, design and business positions with foreign workers, thereby causing further lost U.S. job opportunities even in areas where America is strong, allowing other countries to “bootstrap” themselves into these areas, and further weakening our global competitive strength. If we can retain these research projects in the United States, by contrast, we can stimulate domestic job and economic growth. In short, where innovation and innovators go, jobs are soon to follow.
I know these are issues that people feel strongly about; especially people that work in the tech space or want to. I think the challenge for us is to BOTH equip our own workers AND leverage foreign born workers. I’m glad that Bill Gates is making his feelings known.