Microsoft GC Advocates Immigration and Education Reforms
As general counsel for Microsoft Corporation, Brad Smith has been a vocal advocate for updating U.S. immigration policies to better meet the staffing needs of companies like his. Smith also an alumnus of Princeton University, and last week he brought his immigration reform message to the universitys Center for Information Technology Policy, where he delivered a lecture entitled Immigration, Education, and the Future of Computer Science in America.
The Daily Princetonian captured the main themes and highlights of Smith's campus lecture. If you look at the state of computer science today, there are actually more jobs than people, he said in the talk, and included statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics that show 122,000 jobs per year in the U.S. will require candidates with computer science degrees. But, Smith noted, U.S. universities were graduating less than half that number of new workers with the technology credentials that companies like Microsoft need.
So U.S. tech companies are looking overseas for qualified job candidates--and finding the governments visa policies are not allowing enough computer engineers to come work here. What we have created in the process is an immigration system that makes it easier to become a minor league ball player than a major league engineer, he said.
Smith is not just talking about pro-business immigration reform in venues like the Princeton lecture. In July 2011, he testified [PDF] before the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciarys Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees, and Border Security, saying: Reform is long overdue, and postponing it only works against the national interest . . . If done right, attracting the talents of the best and brightest from other countries can help, rather than hurt, prospects for American workers, because in an innovation economy, jobs often beget jobs.
But while Smith is advocating recruiting computer engineers from overseas, he's also eyeing ways to find more homegrown tech talent. In his Princeton lecture, he offered long-term solutions involving education of students in the U.S. By putting computer science in the curriculum now, he suggested, down the road high-tech companies would have a better pool of qualified American applicants for the jobs of the future.
I believe that we have the opportunity to say in this country that by the end of this decade, we want to make it possible for every American to take computer science in high school, Smith said.
View Smiths full Princeton lecture on YouTube, and read a Q&A with the Microsoft general counsel in The Daily Princetonian.