The United States faces a growing economic challenge - a substantial and increasing shortage of individuals with the skills needed to fill the jobs the private sector is creating. The country faces the paradox of a crisis in unemployment at the same time that many companies cannot fill the jobs they have to offer. But these problems are not unrelated.

So begins a 32-page report from Microsoft they just released called, "A National Talent Strategy; Ideas For Securing U.S. Competitiveness and Economic Growth." You can read the entire report here, and it is definitely worth reading.

The tech company says it spends more money on research and development than any other in the world, and is "opening up new jobs in the United States faster than we can fill them."

The report cites 6,000 open Microsoft jobs right now in the U.S., an increase of 15% over last year. And over 3,400 of those jobs are for researchers, developers and engineers, a total they say has gone up 34% over the past 12 months.

"We fear jobs will start to migrate to other countries," said Brad Smith, Microsoft's general counsel and executive vice president, at a press briefing. "The skill gap is one of the biggest problems Microsoft faces."

Microsoft says it spends 83% of its worldwide R&D budget here at home, but says that won't continue if they can't fill those jobs.

"There is an urgent need for workers trained in the STEM fields, yet there are not enough people with the necessary skills to meet that demand and help drive innovation."

Even more troubling continues the report, "too few American students are achieving the levels of education required to secure jobs in innovation-based industries...the result compounds our economic problems, as many students fail to achieve their full individual potential and, as a country, we fail to achieve our full national economic potential. Every job in technology that is unfilled also means the loss of five other jobs. It is a problem that ultimately affects everyone across the country."

So what does the company recommend to address the problem? The report breaks the solutions into two parts.

Part 1 Race To The Future: Strengthening America's STEM Pipeline

  • Goal #1 Strengthen K-12 math and science teaching and learning
  • Goal #2 Broaden access to Computer Science in high school
  • Goal #3 Help Americans get the degrees and credentials that Twenty-First Century jobs require

Part 2 Bridging The Gap With High-skilled Immigration Reform

  • Recommendation #1 Establish a new and supplemental allocation of 20,000 H-1B STEM visas to meet employers' hiring needs and generate up to $200 million for new investments in the American STEM pipeline
  • Recommendation #2 Recapture 20,000 unused employment-based green card numbers annually to reduce the green card backlog and generate up to $300 million for new investments in the American STEM pipeline.
  • Recommendation #3 Direct employers' investments from these new. targeted immigration benefits to fund initiatives that strengthen the American STEM pipeline

The report's summary says, "We believe we need a two-pronged approach that will couple long-term improvements in STEM education in the United States with targeted, short-term, high-skilled immigration reforms. If done correctly, the latter can help fund the former. Put together, this approach can create a more effective national talent strategy to keep jobs in the U.S,. by providing skilled employees who can fill these jobs, both now and in the future."

What do you think? Is Microsoft on the right track here? Have they laid out a good course of action? There has been lots of talk, for a long time, about the need to increase STEM education in the U.S. What of the immigration reform piece of this? Other thoughts?

Tags: Skills gap, News, Microsoft, Skill Gap, Technology, Immigration reform, IT worker shortage, Tech jobs, Tech talent, H-1BSTEM Visas, STEM education, H-1B visa, IT jobs