Triage for the Perfect Storm

CEO, One-to-One Institute

It is possible to intercept and intervene in this crisis – to stop it in its tracks and begin rapid engagement of education leaders with business and industry to create the robust ed-tech, personalized, constructivist 21st century environments sorely needed in our country.  School leaders unite, step up, take action and make the necessary decisions!!  It is within our reach.

The need for a high quality American workforce is at its peak.  The distractions at the federal level make it impossible to address any ‘real’ partisan or bi-partisan agenda or policy. We can’t allow ourselves to be distracted from the right work and our responsibilities to serve.  We can’t wait for the next shoe to drop or ridiculous tweet to send us in a tail spin.  We have to take matters into our own hands.  We can steer the right course if we focus on our education communities with the right partners, set meaningful goals and use the resources at hand.

Innovative high-tech organizations are thriving as a result of the efforts of a high number of foreign born engineers.  It is increasingly difficult to find US workers with the required skills sets, advanced degrees for transformed manufacturing and engineering jobs. These companies are pulling out the stops to ensure they can continue progress employing those from overseas. They believe it is necessary to pull expertise in from other countries.

Technology giants Google, Intel, Microsoft and Oracle work the political immigration front through “Compete America” The organization lobbies Congress around lightening immigration laws so that these tech titans can ensure recruitment, hiring and maintaining foreign-born talent. The companies deem it necessary to guarantee bleeding edge status in their markets. 

Intel’s former CEO, Craig Barrett, says America’s slow-to-reform education system forces the US need to allow hiring of foreign-born engineers as a stopgap measure.  Barrett also points to the fact that the US is on a rapid global decline as an economic power. 

My spirit of nationalism screams out at this information.  School leaders, if you need ammunition to move rapidly into transformation mode, using your ‘change’ leadership talent.  Here are a series of talking points for ammunition! I did some research and discovered the following:

  • The proportion of U.S. citizens in Science & Engineering (S&E) graduate studies within the U.S. is declining. From 1994 to 2001, graduate S&E enrollment in the U.S. declined by 10 percent for U.S. citizens but increased by 25 percent for foreign born students. In 2001 approximately 57 percent of all S&E postdoctoral positions at U.S. universities were held by foreign born scholars. (National Science Foundation, Science and Engineering Indicators 2004)
  • 40% of America’s Fortune 500 companies were founded by an immigrant or immigrants’ children
  • Collectively, the world’s fastest growing economies are on track to catch up to U.S. Research & Development (R&D) investment. From 1995 through 2001, the emerging economies of China, South Korea, and Taiwan increased their gross R&D investments by about 140 percent. During the same period the U.S. increased its investments by 34 percent.(Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Main Science and Technology Indicators, May 2003)
  • Within the U.S., federal funding of basic research in engineering and physical sciences has experienced little to no growth over the last thirty years. In fact, as a percentage of GDP, funding for physical science research has been in a thirty year decline. (American Association for the Advancement of Science)
  • U.S. Patent applications from the Asian countries of China, India, Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan grew by 759 percent from 1989 to 2001. Patent applications from the U.S. during the same period grew more slowly at 116 percent (though Asian countries started out at a much lower base level)
  • Since 1980, the number of S&E positions in the U.S. has grown at almost five times the rate of the U.S. civilian workforce as a whole. However, the number of S&E degrees earned by U.S. citizens is growing at a much smaller rate, slightly less than the growth in the total U.S. civilian workforce and much less than the rate of growth in the number of S&E positions available. (National Science Foundation, Science and Engineering Indicators 2004)
  • In 2009, two thousand of Google’s 20,000 workers are foreign born and work on temporary visas. A number of others have become American citizens or been granted permanent residency (green card status).
  • Each immigrant with an advanced STEM degree from an American university creates 2.62 US jobs.
  • In Silicon Valley a high number of employees are foreign born: 42 percent of engineers with master’s degrees and 60 percent of those with engineering Ph.D.’s in the United States are from overseas.

The concept of incentivizing to bring foreign born workers to America isn’t new. After WWII, the US noted the significant need and value of skilled immigrants.  We heavily recruited scientists from abroad. Laws were consistently enacted, over time, to ensure those scientists could stay in the US and continue their contributions (i.e. Hart-Celler Immigrant Act of 1965). Specific skilled labor was needed and guaranteed.

Segue to today.  We have enormous need for STEM and STEAM-based jobs and individuals able to successfully engage and advance in those environments.  The projected shortfall of qualified, highly skilled STEM workers in 2018 is 230,000.  There are organizations contributing and training for these needs stateside.  Apparently they are a minority and not able to turn out the numbers of workers needed in the required timeline (i.e. Kettering University, Michigan; California Polytechnic University). AND how much more rapidly could those numbers be advanced if the K-12 environment transformed in needed ways?

Now is the perfect storm. A challenged economy and federal administration, focus on need for reform, etc., etc.  This is a time of opportunity not to be missed, school leaders!!  Use the research. Communicate with your stakeholders. Above all, develop the shared vision and action plans to guarantee the right workers for our economy.

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