Microsoft, Amazon, and Facebook Wednesday challenged the next White House administration to increase STEM education funding and reform immigration policy during an Information Technology and Innovation Foundation panel in Philadelphia as part of a Democratic National Convention public policy forum.
Representatives from the tech companies expressed the challenges faced in finding enough qualified IT professionals and how it sets the nation up for losing its stature as a technology leader, according to a CNET report.
"This is no longer a Microsoft, Facebook or Amazon issue," Microsoft's chief legal officer Brad Smith is quoted in CNET. "Companies are only as good as the people we hire."
The three tech giants are no strangers to advocating for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education funding. The companies, along with other industry behemoths including IBM, Google, Twitter, and Dropbox are members of the Computer Science Education Coalition, which formed earlier this year and called on Congress to invest $250 million in K-12 computer science education.
The coalition has put in a lot of effort. In April, it helped organize a private donation of $48 million from a number of its members to improve access to computer science. Earlier this month, Facebook stepped in with a $15 million pledge to Code.org, which will use it to increase diversity in K-12 computer science classes, according to a GeekWire report.
There are over 600,000 computing jobs that are currently unfilled, yet the nation's universities only graduate 43,000 computer science students each year, according to the coalition. In order to establish a healthy pipeline of potential IT college graduates, the coalition says it wants lawmakers to approve funding.
- Providing $4 billion in funding for states, and $100 million directly for districts in his forthcoming Budget to increase access to K-12 CS by training teachers, expanding access to high-quality instructional materials, and building effective regional partnerships.
- Starting the effort this year, with more than $135 million in investments by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) to support and train CS teachers, who are the most critical ingredient to offering CS education in schools. The agencies will make these investments over five years using existing funds.
- Calling on even more Governors, Mayors, education leaders, CEOs, philanthropists, creative media and technology professionals, and others to get involved.
In a move also meant to address a shortage in IT professionals, the companies speaking on the industry panel also pointed to the need for immigration reform to bring in more skilled workers from other countries.
The panelists, according to CNET, challenged lawmakers to allow foreigners who come to the US to get their college education to have the ability to remain in the country after they receive their degrees.