June 21, 2012
During the past month, a handful of Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate reached across the partisan divide to introduce the Startup Act 2.0, a bill to promote entrepreneurship and create jobs in the United States by easing restrictions on immigration. It’s a great bill, but it could be better. In addition to its immigration measures, it should also advance a plan to boost entrepreneurship and technical skills at home. Here’s one important way to do that: Encourage public schools to teach American children how to code just after they learn to multiply.
Despite the nation’s unemployment rate, the Startup Act rests on the assumption that the United States lacks the talent to fill today’s demand for high-skilled engineers and entrepreneurs. That assumption is probably right: A report released by the Partnership for a New American Economy and the Partnership for New York City predicts that by 2018, there will be 800,000 science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) jobs in the United States that require a master’s degree or higher — and only around 550,000 American-graduates with this training.
This scarcity of talent has received a lot of attention in connection with high-flying Silicon Valley companies: Google threw around $100 and $50 million offers to keep their top talent from fleeing to Twitter, and some companies pay tens of thousands to recruiters for even junior talent. Startups feel the same pressure: TechCrunch describes a “war for talent” among young firms, and anyone who has chatted with the CEO of a fast-growing tech company knows how much time they devote to identifying and wooing top technical talent.