Shocker: We Still Suck When It Comes to High-Tech Education

imagesEver since I’ve been in Silicon Valley, I’ve heard mass anxiety about the state of higher education, particularly when it comes to training the next generation of tech thinkers, innovators and worker bees. But for all those speeches and pledges to change things, the situation only seems to be getting worse.

According to a new study released today by the Bay Area Council, the Campaign for College Opportunity and IHELP, some 40,000 new jobs are created every year in California that need people with degrees in science, technology, math or engineering. To meet that need the state would have to see a 90% upswing in these types of degrees.  The study hints at a “devastating” impact the current shortfall of techy grads could have on the state’s $1.7 trillion economy if more people don’t go into these fields.

Of course, these groups recommend all sorts of investments in the University of California and other state education systems, but here’s a quicker, cheaper solution no one wants to admit outside the board rooms of Silicon Valley: Remove H-1B Visa caps.

The new study argues that international workers won’t be enough given the hightech explosion of jobs around the world. Ok, so let it fill some of them. Education is like the mess masquerading as the American healthcare system—there’s simply no quick fix. After all, the study doesn’t talk about a shortage in people going to college, just going into these fields. Is more money really going to change what people want to study? We need high tech workers: The India Institutes of Technology are graduating nearly 4,000 engineers per year who presumably would like jobs. And if they come here, they help build tech companies and we get tax revenue. How is that not a win-win?

Below is an interview I did with LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman about the topic a few months ago. He boldly argues that instead of restricting H1Bs, the government should just levy a payroll tax on them. That way there’s no argument that it’s a “cheaper” option for employers– it’s a pricey last resort, but one most tech CEOs would still jump at.