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December 19, 2011

Retaining and Training High-Tech Talent

Colorado is a national leader in the innovation economy.

Even during the worst recession since the Great Depression, innovation-based industries in Colorado actually grew. Our state is 6th in clean energy employment, has the 3rd largest aerospace industry, and has the 6th largest medical device industry in the country.

But in Colorado, like the rest of the nation, our economy is in need of more workers in the high-skill fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, also known as the STEM disciplines. Every year an increasing number of foreign students graduate with advanced degrees from our universities and colleges, and many of these students want to stay in this country, work and contribute to our economy, but our broken immigration system forces them to return home.

Last week, I introduced a STEM visa act videobill that would help fix this problem. The Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Visa Act of 2011 would create a new green card category for international students graduating with advanced degrees in STEM specialties. As importantly, the bill would help create a pipeline of new talent by investing in and improving STEM education for American students so they can fill the jobs of tomorrow.   

There will be hundreds of thousands of STEM-related job vacancies in Colorado alone over the next decade, and those jobs have the potential to generate millions even billions of dollars for our economy. If we are going to continue to compete with countries like China and India, we need to invest in the next generation of American scientists and engineers, while updating our outdated visa system now to keep international talent in the United States.

In short, the STEM Visa Act is good for business, good for Colorado and good for the country. In a time when our politics are so divided, the STEM Visa Act offers a rare opportunity for both parties to work together to unleash a new wave of innovation here in Colorado and all across the country.

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