Microsoft Chairman and CEO Bill Gates appeared before the Senate Health Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee yesterday to testify on the topic of US competitiveness, a topic in which he is well-versed. He identified three challenges:
“First, we must ensure that America’s students and workers have the skills necessary to compete in a digital economy by providing them with the necessary educational opportunities and resources. A top priority must be to reverse our dismal high school graduation rates – with a target of doubling the number of young people who graduate from high school ready for college, career, and life – and to place a major emphasis on encouraging careers in math and science. We must also focus far more of our energies on upgrading the skills of Americans already in the workforce. Second, we need to attract and retain the brightest, most talented people from around the world. This will not happen until we reform our immigration policies for highly skilled workers. America should be doing all it can to attract the world’s best and brightest. Instead, we are shutting them out and discouraging those already here from staying and contributing to our
Third, we need to provide a foundation for innovation by investing in ideas and capturing their value. The public sector in particular needs to continue to increase investments in R&D, especially in basic scientific research, to complement the R&D of the private sector and address new challenges. The R&D tax credit, which provides a critical, proven incentive for companies to increase their investment in U.S.-based research and development, needs to be
made permanent. We also need a legal framework that rewards innovation.”
He noted that we have among the lowest high school graduation rates in the industrialized world. As we’ve said here before, so much of the resistance to education reform has come from none other than the National Education Association, a group that consistently puts self-interest above that of the students.
He talked about the need for H1B visa and green card reform, to allow the world’s best and brightest to come here — or to remain here after their education — so that we can keep our innovation edge. Otherwise, it is increasingly likely that the jobs will follow them home, a bad solution for Americans and American manufacturing.
Here’s a link to Gates’ full testimony. He makes some great points — again, not from the standpoint of an academic, but from a manufacturer with real, practical, first-hand knowledge of the problems and their implications.
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