I-Squared Act will help high-tech firms, future workers

The bill addresses the current and future need for STEM employees

There's an obvious economic demand for high-skilled workers that our current workforce isn't meeting. We haven’t made enough investments in education – particularly in science, technology, engineering and mathematics – and as a result, employers across New Hampshire and the country are finding there’s a void of American talent to meet their needs.

We need to address the current shortage of high-tech workers while we concurrently develop a homegrown skilled workforce that can drive our economy in the future.

That’s why I’m co-sponsoring the Immigration Innovation (I-Squared) Act, a bipartisan solution to our nation’s backlogged visa and green card system that makes strategic investments in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education for our students now.

The I-Squared Act addresses the realities of our economic plight with a twofold approach.

First, in response to current economic demand, I-Squared raises the number of temporary work visas and ensures the visa program will respond to future market demand. It also helps streamline the green card application process so that thousands of high-skilled workers in science and technology can become permanent residents who contribute to our economy.

What’s more, I-Squared will make it easier for foreign graduates of American universities with science and technology degrees to remain in the United States and bring their expertise to American companies instead of taking their talents overseas to countries like China and India.

As an economic hub for science and technology, New Hampshire will directly benefit from I-Squared. Employers such as Oracle, Texas Instruments and Seabrook’s SustainX are all supporting I-Squared because they know that they need skilled employees who can help their businesses grow which, in turn, bolsters our economy.

Similarly, national business leaders like Microsoft, Intel and the National Association of Manufacturers are supporting this legislation for the same reasons.

Second, I-Squared boosts funding for STEM education across America, a move that will help our workforce develop a competitive edge in the future.

STEM education is a priority that I’ve worked on extensively in recent years, and this bill builds off of those efforts. Specifically, it mandates that the revenue generated from increasing visa and green card fees is reinvested in STEM education efforts to help develop a homegrown STEM workforce of the future.

This is particularly significant because jobs in the STEM fields are expected to be the fastest-growing occupations of the next decade. More than 120,000 computer science jobs alone will be added between now and 2020. But in today’s economy, jobs are dependent on the talent supply – not the reverse. Building this talent supply requires education, and STEM education provides that.

Science, engineering and highly skilled manufacturing will drive our economy in the future. We need to make sure we have a workforce that will allow us to compete successfully in the global marketplace. I-Squared recognizes these realities and takes steps to address both our short- and long-term economic needs. Most important, its ideals are rooted in common sense principles, which is why it was introduced with strong, bipartisan support.

This is exactly the kind of sensible, market-based economic and education policy we need to move our economy forward, and I’m eager to work with my colleagues to secure its passage.

Democrat Jeanne Shaheen is New Hampshire’s senior U.S. senator.

Categories: Opinion