Microsoft Calls for Changes to Develop STEM Professionals

The Microsoft Corporation has announced a list of proposals aimed at making the U.S. more competitive in the global economic market in the future. The suggestions, collectively titled the National Talent Strategy, shows how taking a few straightforward steps — both locally and through some common-sense changes to its immigration system — will result in an increase to the number of STEM professionals.

The whitepaper offers ideas for many sectors in the country from government to education to business and suggests that if they are implemented, America would be in a better position going forward to continue to be a dominant force in the global marketplace.

Microsoft, which has one of the largest R&D budgets in the world, sees the country’s failure to produce enough STEM professionals as one of the biggest economic challenges facing the U.S. While unemployment continues to plague the country in the wake of the 2008 recession, there is a growing number of high-tech jobs without enough qualified candidates to fill them.

Throughout the nation and in a wide range of industries, there is an urgent demand for workers trained in the STEM fields — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — yet there are not enough people with the necessary skills to meet that demand and help drive innovation

The latest economic estimates place the number of unfilled STEM jobs at 3.7 million, while the unemployment numbers for engineers and computer scientists have fallen below the “full employment” number of 3.4%. According to one recent study, the economy will be creating in excess of 150,000 STEM jobs every year between 2010 and 2020, while the number of college students graduating annually in these fields has stagnated at 40,000.

To fix this imbalance, the government needs serious investment directed at improving STEM education — including expanding the STEM curriculum at the K-12 level and creating incentives for STEM professionals to become teachers. In particular, computer science programs at the high school level need to expand and grow to prepare students to pursue these fields in college and beyond. The whitepaper suggests that the government:

Address our national crisis in college completion by helping students who start college to finish it faster and expand higher education capacity to produce more STEM degrees, with a particular focus on computer science.

However, these are the steps to make sure there are enough STEM grads in the future. Companies need these professionals now, and that is why the government needs to combine educational efforts with a move to reform immigration to make it easier for companies to recruit STEM professionals from abroad.

Congress should create a new, supplemental allocation of 20,000 visas annually for STEM skills that are in short supply. Second, it should take advantage of prior unused green cards by making a supplemental allocation of 20,000 new green card slots annually for workers with STEM skills