Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Comentarios from Maria: “Bipartisan Coalition Bolsters U.S. STEM”

Maria CNN HeadshotCo-Written with John E. Sununu

The sequester’s arrival on March 1 left Americans with more questions than answers about our country’s economic future. Most of all, it epitomized the challenge of finding consensus in the current political climate.

That failure makes the bipartisan movement on immigration reform this year all the more impressive — and one that could soon take us from a national discussion to legislative reality.

As part of the immigration reform debate, we have a unique opportunity within our grasp: strengthening our high-tech industry today as well as putting resources behind the science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, education that will drive American innovation in the future.

Shortly after the Senate’s Gang of Eight unveiled the first immigration reform plan of the year, another group of Republicans and Democrats introduced the most significant piece of high-skilled immigration legislation of the past 15 years, the Immigration Innovation Act of 2013, known as I-Squared. Introduced in late January by Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Chris Coons (D-Del.), I-Squared establishes a national fund to strengthen our STEM education pipeline and tackles the nation’s current STEM jobs crisis.

The present and future STEM worker needs of U.S. employers are increasing at a rapid rate. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there will be 9.2 million jobs created in the U.S. in STEM fields over the next decade. From 2008 to 2018, STEM jobs are expected to grow by 17 percent compared with just 9.8 percent for non-STEM jobs. Yet only 8 percent of college graduates enter the workforce with a STEM degree, and according to Information Technology and Innovation Foundation President Rob Atkinson, “There is a global race for innovation advantage and the talent that drives it, and the United States is losing.”

Reforming high-skilled immigration is important to America’s economy today, but the legislation wisely looks forward to deliver a solution that will ensure the U.S. will be an innovation leader well into the future. By using fees paid for by the companies applying for the visas and green cards to strengthen STEM education throughout the country at no cost to the American taxpayer I-Squared makes an important investment to reach more schools, communities and students with STEM education to help America produce more graduates in STEM fields.

The fund will also be crucial to building a more diverse high-skilled workforce in the U.S. While whites account for 73 percent of the STEM workforce, blacks and Latinos only account for 7 percent, according to a 2012 survey commissioned by Monster Worldwide.

Given the current political tone in Washington, bipartisan channels of communication stand out. And considering the long-term benefits to our economy, it is easy to see why these senators were able to join together on this smart approach to bolstering America’s technology pipeline and putting more Americans back to work.