Today the U.S. House Committee on Science and Technology will hold a hearing on the future of innovation and U.S. competitiveness. This hearing commemorates the committee’s 50th anniversary and as part of the event, Bill Gates will be speaking.
Microsoft sent out a document prior to this meeting in order to give us an idea on what he will be saying today.
"I know we all want the United States to continue to be the world’s center for innovation. But our position as the global leader in innovation is at risk," Gates said. "If this nation is to continue to be the global center of innovation, Congress, the current administration and the next president must act decisively."
Continuing on a theme Gates has spoken about before, he will explain that science and math education need to be improved in this country. Gates said, "If we don’t reverse these trends, our competitive advantage will continue to erode. Our ability to create new high-paying jobs will suffer."
In addition he will address the need to allow US corporations to hire the best and brightest minds from overseas. "At a time when talent is the key to economic success, it makes no sense to educate people in our universities, often subsidized by U.S.taxpayers, and then insist that they return home," he said. "To address the shortage of scientists and engineers, we must … reform our education system and our immigration policies. If we don’t, American companies simply will not have the talent they need to innovate and compete."
Gates urges Congress and the White House to address this problem by extending the period that foreign students can work in the U.S. after graduation, raising the cap on H-1B visas, creating a clear path to permanent residency for high-skilled foreign-born employees and increasing the number of green cards. "The shortage of scientists and engineers is so acute that we must do both: reform our education system and reform our immigration policies."
Gates said he is optimistic that information technology will continue to transform business productivity and the quality of our day-to-day lives, adding that private companies alone cannot ensure that the U.S. will remain the pre-eminent force in innovation. "Without leadership from Congress and the president … and the commitment of the private sector to do its part, the center of progress will shift to other nations that are more committed to the pursuit of innovation," Gates said.
You probably recall that at the beginning of this month I wrote about this same problem in an entry titled Flood us With New Careers, not Money referring to how our government is trying to boost the economy with handouts, not education and retraining.
I should also mention that what Gates is doing should be considered heroic – he is a true US Patriot.
Keep in mind that Microsoft as a corporation should probably not care about hiring American engineers as it is cheaper to hire this talent in other countries.
If I may be so bold, I would like to reiterate from my past article that a mandatory increase of 1.5 hours a day (or more) focusing on math and science should take place in all US schools ASAP.
I look forward to following this hearing closely as the day progresses.