Newspaper article Roll Call

Reed: Tech Industry Ready to Do Its Part for STEM Education

Newspaper article Roll Call

Reed: Tech Industry Ready to Do Its Part for STEM Education

Article excerpt

The technology industry needs highly skilled workers so desperately it is willing to pay for their education - at high school and even earlier.

As part of the bipartisan I-Squared Act, tech companies would pay double the current fees for additional visas and green cards with the added funds designated exclusively for science, technology, engineering and math education. The industry is willing to incur these extra costs - up to $5 billion - believing that schoolchildren educated in STEM subjects are more likely to pursue careers in technology.

Congress has heard from many sources explaining why this funding is urgent. In a Code.org video viewed 10 million times, celebrities and tech CEOs make an impassioned appeal for computer science education. NBA All-Star Chris Bosh describes taking coding classes in school. The head of an Internet company with a billion users explains that more opportunity is needed: "[We] hire as many talented engineers as we can find. The whole limit in the system is that there aren"t enough people who are trained and have these skills today.'

If tech titans cannot find enough applicants for high-wage jobs, imagine the challenge small companies face. Mobile app makers and startups are leading innovators and job creators in congressional districts across the country. They need highly skilled workers to continue to grow, but they do not have the gourmet cafeterias and luxury perks that Silicon Valley heavyweights offer. Job openings are in abundance, but Americans with computer science degrees are not.

This explains the high wages software developers command - $92,080 at the median according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The unemployment rate among computer-related occupations is only 3.4 percent and BLS projects the economy will add 120,000 new computing jobs annually through 2020. With soaring demand and high salaries, one might expect a spike in Americans pursuing computer science degrees. Remarkably, that is not happening.

The primary reason is the steep decline in schools teaching computer science. …

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