Technology and Innovation: Investing in Our Future

Earlier today, Microsoft Executive Vice President of Legal & Corporate Affairs Brad Smith gave the closing keynote address at the 41st Annual Economic Forecast Conference. Presented by the Economic Development Council of Seattle and King County, and attended by leaders across the public and private sectors, the conference provided insight into future economic trends and forecasts, as well as opportunities and challenges that surround the technology industry.

Brad spoke to the urgent issue facing the technology sector not just in Washington state, but across the country – the need for more qualified talent in computer science and STEM fields. He called for a stronger focus in improving access to quality STEM curricula and faster implementation of the new national math and science standards in K-12. Brad pointed out that of 42,000 high schools in the U.S., only 2,103 offered the AP computer science course. Narrow this down to Washington and the reality is just as grim, out about 770 high schools in the state, only 35 offered the AP computer science course. He also stressed the importance for higher education to increase their STEM related capacity enabling more students to access and complete high demand degrees and credentials.

Brad also addressed the need for broader high-skilled immigration reform, calling on Congress to take the right steps to improve the situation this year. The current limit on H1-B visas is hindering the technology sector in filling the jobs being created, and putting the nation at risk in losing these jobs to other countries, he said.

As Brad optimistically put it, “It’s a new year, but we need more than a new year; we need to create a new day where we come together with the kind of plan that will enable us month after month, year after year, throughout this decade to take the steps that will address the needs our people need and deserve. We need to make this a year that will make this a decade that counts. Because if we do, we have a very bright future, not just in information technology, but in many other scientific and technological fields.” 

To learn more about Microsoft’s recommendations to secure U.S. competitiveness and economic growth, read Brad’s recent post ”Opportunity for the Next Generation”.

More from Brad Smith’s keynote address:

Watch the video

Read the transcript

Download handout materials

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