President Obama once again put the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) crisis front and center in his State of the Union address.
"Think about the America within our reach: A country that leads the world in educating its people. An America that attracts a new generation of high-tech manufacturing and high-paying jobs," he said.
Last year, Obama said America needed to train 100,000 STEM teachers over the next 10 years. He took a different tack last night, asking Congress to pass legislation that would retrain 2 million out-of-work Americans with skills they need to take high-tech jobs.
"I also hear from many business leaders who want to hire in the United States but can't find workers with the right skills. Growing industries in science and technology have twice as many openings as we have workers who can do the job. Think about that--openings at a time when millions of Americans are looking for work," he said. "That's inexcusable. And we know how to fix it."
Obama singled out Jackie Bray, an unemployed single mother from North Carolina who was retrained at a community college that partnered with Siemens. "The company helped the college design courses in laser and robotics training. It paid Jackie's tuition, then hired her to help operate their plant," he said. "Now you need to give more community colleges the resources they need to become community career centers--places that teach people skills that local businesses are looking for right now, from data management to high-tech manufacturing."
Obama hit most of the notes STEM experts love: He advocated for more public-private partnerships, more career training at community colleges, and the return of American innovation. He also pushed for immigration reform for American-educated foreigners.
"Other [immigrants] came more recently, to study business and science and engineering, but as soon as they get their degree, we send them home to invent new products and create new jobs somewhere else," he said. "That doesn't make sense … Send me a law that gives them the chance to earn their citizenship. I will sign it right away."