If we want to prepare the next generation for the explosion of high-tech jobs that are likely to dominate the job market, we need to put more resources behind education in science, technology, engineering and math, collectively known as the STEM subjects. By 2018, STEM jobs are projected to increase 22 percent, to more than 715,000 jobs in Texas alone.
We can meet this challenge by supporting the U.S. House’s SKILLS VISA Act as part of any meaningful immigration reform in Congress. This act would increase the number of visas for high-tech workers immediately, helping to fill the current gap. At the same time, Congress should support Stem funding to train America’s youth by requiring employers who hire foreign nationals to pay a fee attached to H-1B visas. This fee would then be deposited into a “STEM Education and Training Account.” The funds from that account would flow to the states for use in the improvement of our local STEM initiatives.
I’ve seen the importance of proactive efforts to enhance and improve STEM programs locally. But with fewer than half of the eighth graders in Texas scoring proficient or higher in math and science, we need to do more. Enhanced STEM programs will improve the economic development of our region.
We need to make sure our elected officials know the importance of the SKILLS Act in preparing our youth for the technical future they will face.
Dr. Betty Baitland