12:05 PM

3.7.07 On the Hill Gates continues campaign for better education, more workers

Bill Gates continued his lobbying campaign for more investment in education and workers on Capitol Hill yesterday, saying he suffered "deep anxiety" over the state of US innovation, Computerworld reports.

“America simply cannot continue along this course,” said Gates in written testimony delivered to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.“When I reflect on the state of American competitiveness today, my immediate feeling is not only one of pride, but also of deep anxiety. "Too often, we as a society are sacrificing the long-term good of our country in the interests of short-term gain."

Gates said in too many areas, the U.S. is “content to live off the investments that previous generations made for us — in education, in health care, in basic scientific research — but [is] unwilling to invest equal energy and resources into building on this legacy to ensure that America’s future is as bright and prosperous as its present.”

"A top priority must be to reverse our dismal high school graduation rates — with a target of doubling the number of young people who graduate from high school ready for college, career and life — and to place a major emphasis on encouraging careers in math and science,” Gates said.

Gates said the H-1B program was unacceptably limited.

He predicted that “for the first time in the history of the program, the supply will run out before the year’s graduating students get their degrees. This means that U.S. employers will not be able to get H-1B visas for an entire crop of U.S. graduates. We are essentially asking top talent to leave the U.S.”

And US education, he said, is teetering on being unable to train its citizens.

“Given the state of our educational system, it is not surprising that U.S. companies are reporting serious shortages of skilled workers,” said Gates. “According to a 2005 U.S.

Department of Education study, only 13 percent of American adults are proficient in the knowledge and skills needed to search, comprehend and use information, or to perform computational tasks. This yawning gap between America’s economic needs and the skills of its workforce indicates that as a nation, we are not doing nearly enough to equip and continuously improve the capabilities of American workers.”