Brad Smith, the executive vice president and general counsel, at Microsoft said that Congress should invest $5 billion in the country’s education system, especially in math, science, and technology. Microsoft said that they should pay for the education investment by putting increased fees on high-skill immigration. He said that the U.S. should push more resources into science, tech, engineering, and math (STEM) education because technology companies have a shortage in workers. As companies start seeing these shortages, they will start relying heavily on IT systems. Smith talked about this during a speech at the Brookings Institution on Thursday.
“We need to do something new,” said Smith. “We need to try something different.” Smith said that in order to pay for the $500 million per year investment in education, Congress should add 20,000 high-skill immigration visas that are dedicated to works in STEM fields to the alerady existing 85,000 H-1B visas that are allowed each year. He said that Congress should charge $10,000 for each of the 20,000 H-1Bs. H-1B applications cost around $2,800 for large companies. He also said that Congress should “recapture” 15,000 unused green card visas each year and charge $15,000 for those applications. He said that charging $10,000 for STEM-focused H-1B visas is “economically feasible.”
The $500 million raised by the two new programs would go to states to help improve their education systems under Microsoft’s plan as written about in a white paper. Smith said that he proposed the idea to Democratic and Republican lawmakers and found them to be receptive.
“We’re trying to break a logjam here,” added Smith. “We do need to do something to break the logjam over the next 12 months, or I really fear that run an increasing risk that the jobs are going to start to migrate elsewhere.” Smith said that the U.S. is falling behind several other nations in terms of education.
Smith pointed out that the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts around 120,000 computing job openings per year in the U.S. between now and 2020. The country graduates under 60,000 computing students per year in bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate programs. Microsoft has around 6,000 U.S. job openings and 3,400 of those jobs are for researchers, developers, and engineers.