Microsoft Hosts STEM Education Discussion in DC

Last week, NEC member Microsoft held a panel discussion focused on STEM education and STEM jobs. As a company that employs thousands of individuals with STEM training and expertise, Microsoft has been a tremendous advocate for STEM education and has been active in efforts to include funding for STEM education in comprehensive immigration reform.

The discussion, entitled “Conversations on Education Preparing the Next Generation for 21st Century Jobs:  Why STEM Education & Blended Learning Matter,” explored methods that could be used to prepare students throughout their education for the modern economy.

Congressman Todd Rokita (R-IN), co-author of the recently introduced SKILLS Act, delivered opening remarks.. The SKILLS Act (Supporting Knowledge and Investing in Lifelong Skills Act) (H.R. 2131) would increase the H-1B visa cap to 155,000 from the existing cap of 65,000. The bill also proposes to eliminate the per-country cap for employment-based visas. The legislation would increase the fees paid by employers for H-1B visas and green cards, and the additional money collected would go towards a fund dedicated to improving STEM education in the U.S. Congressman Rokita spoke in support of legislation and called for a renewed investment in educating students in STEM and creating STEM workers. He called for the involvement of businesses and citizens who are involved in the STEM fields and are more familiar with the country’s needs and shortages. He was modest in that, while calling for immediate legislation to address the STEM skills gap, he also said he had much to learn about STEM education from the panel he introduced.

Following the Congressman’s remarks, a panel of experts discussed innovative initiatives in which their organizations are involved that support STEM education Panelists included Change the Equation CEO Dr. Linda Rosen, CityBridge Foundation President Katherine Bradley, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Senior Program Officer for Research Ed Dieterle, and Brookings Institution Metropolitan Policy Program Senior Research Associate and Associate Fellow Jonathan Rothwell. . Panelists suggested that STEM subjects must be taught early and by well-trained instructors. They also noted the successes of continuing to educate teachers in STEM and STEM teaching methods. Finally, panelists said that grants and competitions could be used to incentivize STEM learning with students.

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