Microsoft knows about the country’s skills shortage because we are experiencing it first-hand. Today Microsoft has 6,000 job openings with 3,400 in core technology areas in the U.S. We cannot continue to keep these high paying jobs in the U.S. if we can’t fill them. America’s computer science talent crisis is just one aspect of the STEM shortage, yet it is having a significant impact on companies big and small across industries.
Looking at computer science through a national lens, we know that the American economy is creating approximately 120,000 new computer-related jobs annually that require a bachelor’s degree, but we are currently producing only about 51,000 graduates each year with these degrees in this field. But the problem starts even earlier.
Of the 42,000 U.S. high schools – just 2,100 were even certified to teach the Advanced Placement computer science course in 2011. Further only nine states — GA, MO, NY, NC, OK, OR, RI, TX, and VA — count computer science toward “core” graduation requirements like math or science. The shortage in computer science impacts all industries. Consider the distribution of people working in computing occupations by sector: 36 percent are in professional and business services, 12 percent are in financial services, 12 percent are in manufacturing, 9 percent are in information services, and 7 percent are in government and public education services.
This is why Microsoft has made addressing the STEM crisis our top legislative priority and are strongly encouraging Congress to take action in 2013. Specifically, Microsoft has proposed the creation of a new STEM fund that schools across the U.S. can tap into to enhance education and better prepare the next generation of the American workforce. It’s important to note that this new STEM fund would be fully funded by U.S. industry through new fees paid by companies for high skilled visas and green cards. This concept is backed by a wide range of stakeholders in industry and the education community who have helped organize a new coalition called InSPIRE STEM USA pushing for enactment of this concept this year.
The STEM fund concept is included in the recently introduced Immigration Innovation Act (known as the “I-Squared Act”) put forward by Senators Klobuchar, Coons, Hatch and Rubio which Microsoft strongly supports. The bill contains crucial reforms in high-skilled immigration including mapping the visa and green card system to current market needs in the technology industry given the skills shortage in exchange for modest additional fees paid for entirely by industry. The fees would be deposited in a new “Promoting American Ingenuity Account” to strengthen STEM education including computer science. This new “STEM Fund” – which would flow to the states – works to expand the number of well-trained and effective STEM teachers while increasing the number of graduates in STEM related programs including computer science.
By coupling two policy areas together – immigration reform and increasing support for STEM education – we believe this kind of legislation would fill jobs now and create a pipeline to better prepare our students for the jobs of the future.
Finally, Microsoft supports industry certifications that are part of this much needed STEM step ladder and Microsoft applauds Senator Donnelly’s legislative efforts in this area. As employers we view these certifications as critically important job credentials which guarantee proficiency in a defined set of skills, while providing workers with access to the industry recognized credentials they need to land good paying IT jobs with a bright future. In fact over the last decade, some 700,000 students and workers gained access to these credentials from our community college system. A decade ago that figure stood at 35,000. We know in particular that mid-career workers in transition often do not have the ability to spend 2-4 years studying for a degree in a new field, but they are willing and able to spend 3-6 months gaining an industry recognized credential at a community college that will lead to family wage employment in their community. Microsoft’s own IT Academy and ITA program helps students gain these industry-recognized credentials. Currently 11 states have set up broad adoptions of ITA with thousands of students achieving a certification for the first time. In some states, teachers and parents are also gaining access to these certifications.
Investing in increasing industry certifications and STEM education are smart bets as we work to ensure ALL of our nation’s students have the knowledge, skills, and experiences they need to achieve in this increasingly competitive, global economy.