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On STEM, Immigration and the State of the Union

We might end up calling last night's State of the Union address the "tech talk".  The President's speech touched on a litany of technology issues, making it sound as if he was pitching TechElect for us.  Instead of rehashing the President's speech point by point, we would like to focus on two issues he raised -STEM and immigration reform.  Both issues often receive broad, bipartisan support and are viewed as key cogs in spurring economic growth.

STEM, the familiar acronym for science, technology, engineering and mathematics, is an issue that has been plaguing the U.S. education system for quite some time.  Too often, we read about the U.S. education system lags behind its foreign competitors and ignores 21st-centruy realities like the need to prepare the workforce in the hard sciences.  According to these same reports, our Asian and European counterparts are well-versed in STEM.  The Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) reported in 2010 (the most recent report), that 17 Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)  countries had better math programs than the U.S.  Moreover, it reported only 27 percent of American students can "complete higher order tasks such as solving problems that involve visual or spatial reasoning...in unfamiliar contexts".  The OCED average is 32 percent.  Similarly, OECD reported that 12 OECD countries had higher science scores.

These findings have real-life repercussions. As the high-tech sector grows, many business leaders have expressed concerns that they are unable to find qualified workers to fill job openings.  In fact, the President stated last night there are twice as many job openings in this emerging sector as there are qualified workers to do them. 

Additionally, the President jumped into what can sometimes be a delicate political issue:  immigration.  TechElect is a big proponent of high-skilled immigration, meaning we like talented minds bringing innovative ideas to the United States. Unfortunately, it is all too common for international students to come to the United States to study in a STEM field, only to find out that they are unable to stay after graduation and put that degree to work.  These students take their skill sets -which were sharpened here -back overseas and become innovators and job creators. 

The President called on Congress to help him address both of these issues by developing a comprehensive immigration plan, and a plan to train workers with the skills they will need in the 21st-century.  So, while unemployment remains high, there is hope.  Addressing these two issues in the near future will pay significant dividends, as they will create jobs, make the U.S. competitive and grow the economy.

In keeping with the theme, be on the look-out in the coming days and weeks for similar blog posts.  TechElect intends to dive even deeper in the STEM/immigration debate, presenting our audience with some incredible STEM data and a guest who will share his STEM and immigration story.

Public Policy Tags: Workforce, Immigration