"[International graduates] are a source of national strength. A vast majority want to stay and contribute to American innovation.We must make it easier for them to do so."Eric Schmidt, "I Used to Run Google. Silicon Valley Could Lose to China." New York Times, February 27, 2020
America’s industries of today and of the future need more workers
In a recent op-ed in the New York Times, Eric Schmidt (former CEO of Google and current chairman of the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence and the Defense Innovation Board) explains how the United States government needs to step up its efforts to win the technology competition with China. This includes building a workforce of technology experts, in part by recruiting global talent to the U.S:
“A majority of computer scientists with graduate degrees working in America were born abroad, as were most current graduate students studying computer science in U.S. universities. They are a source of national strength. A vast majority want to stay and contribute to American innovation. We must make it easier for them to do so.”
In recent years, labor shortages have challenged emerging industries like artificial intelligence (AI) that rely on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) skills. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, STEM fields had unemployment rates below the national average and more than 300,000 more jobs than there were workers to fill them, according to estimates from New American Economy.1 And even though the pandemic, unemployment in computer-related fields actually fell.
Maintaining American leadership in STEM fields is critical not only to economic growth but also to national security and global leadership. Dr. Arthur Herman, an expert on defense, energy, and technology issues, writes in American Affairs:
“Today’s Defense Department and other leading experts all agree that the future of America’s defense will rely on advanced technologies such as AI, cyber, quantum, robotics, directed energy and hypersonic weapons, and even 3-D printing. … All of the above technologies will be critical if the United States is to maintain its military superiority over its rivals, including China.”
Yet, despite the demand for STEM workers, America’s immigration laws and policies get in our own way, limiting the avenues available to skilled foreign nationals who graduate from U.S. colleges and universities to remain in the U.S. they graduate and fill critical jobs in the U.S. workforce.