Bill Gates, chairman of Microsoft Corp, testified before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee on competitiveness issues this morning. A web cast of the hearing is available here. He emphasized three areas: educating students and workers, immigration, and federal funding of basic research and R&D tax credit. His extensive written testimony (where he cites CRAs own Jay Vegso!) goes into great detail on each of these three issues.
Gates hit the competitiveness high notes that are found in the Rising Above the Gathering Storm and Tapping Americas Potential reports including recruiting more high school science and math teachers, doubling the number of math, science, and engineering graduates, increasing basic science R&D at the major research agencies by 10% over the next 7 years, and increasing visas for high skilled workers. He used computing as an example in both his oral and written testimony. His written testimony states:
We cannot possibly sustain an economy founded on technology pre-eminence without a citizenry educated in core technology disciplines such as mathematics, computer science, engineering, and the physical sciences. The economys need for workers trained in these fields is massive and growing. The U.S. Department of Labor has projected that, in the decade ending in 2014, there will be over two million job openings in the United States in these fields. Yet in 2004, just 11 percent of all higher education degrees awarded in the U.S. were in engineering, mathematics, and the physical sciences a decline of about a third since 1960.
Recent declines are particularly pronounced in computer science. The percentage of college freshmen planning to major in computer science dropped by 70 percent between 2000 and 2005.3 In an economy in which computing has become central to innovation in nearly every sector, this decline poses a serious threat to American competitiveness. Indeed, it would not be an exaggeration to say that every significant technological innovation of the 21st century will require new software to make it happen.
To combat this decline, Gates takes a recommendation straight from the Gathering Storm report and calls for 25,000 4-year undergraduate scholarships in the STEM fields. He also said that the opportunities for innovation in computing are greater than most people, especially students, realize.