May 24, 2013

Maine Voices: Immigration reform must help address the skills gap in critical fields

The shortage of so-called STEM workers needs to be addressed through short- and long-term solutions.

By James T. Brett and Michael E. Dubyak

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I-Squared would increase the cap on H-1B visas to 120,000, and would implement an increased fee of $1,000 per visa. The fees collected would be allocated to fund state administered programs to promote both STEM education and worker retraining.

Regardless of which of these proposals is included in the final immigration reform bill, the only way to truly address the shortage of highly skilled workers is to address both the immediate needs of employers and the longer term demands of our growing innovation economy.

We are encouraged that leaders on both sides of the aisle have acknowledged the importance of tackling this challenge in the proposals they have put forth, and urge them to continue to work toward meaningful reform.

As our economy evolves, we must ensure a pipeline of workers skilled in the STEM disciplines, and filling the gap between availability and need will be critical to New England's continued economic growth.

James T. Brett is president and CEO of The New England Council, a nonpartisan regional business association, and Michael E. Dubyak is chairman and CEO of WEX Inc. in South Portland.


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