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Christopher Padilla, Vice President, Governmental Programs, IBM

Christopher Padilla, Vice President, Governmental Programs, IBM

By Christopher Padilla

This week, nearly 200 of IBM’s senior leaders representing all 50 states are on Capitol Hill to urge action on policies that will drive innovation and economic competitiveness. With more than 300 congressional delegation meetings, our executives are addressing a range of issues critical to U.S. business.

As public-private collaboration becomes increasingly critical to overcoming challenges that no single sector can handle alone, we look forward to working with U.S. congressional leaders on the following issues:

Share Information on Cyber Threats to Protect the Nation’s Critical Assets
Individuals, companies and governments are facing higher risks of cyber attacks as the world becomes more inter-connected. Now, more than ever, it is imperative to develop innovative measures to protect critical assets such as our energy and financial industries. To achieve this goal, private sector advances in innovation should be complemented with legislative policies that promote the collaboration needed to ensure cybersecurity.

IBM believes we can build stronger, more efficient defenses against cyber threats by enabling better information sharing and providing clear authority for the private sector to defend its own networks, as proposed in the Cybersecurity Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA). Passage of this bill, together with legislation to boost Research & Development related to cybersecurity and updating the Federal Information Security Management Act, as well as President Obama’s recent executive order creating open collaboration between industry and government, will enable us to make significant progress toward securing our cyber networks.

The sooner CISPA becomes law, the sooner we can strengthen U.S. cybersecurity. We look forward to making this point on Capitol Hill this week, and we thank Chairman Mike Rogers (MI-8) and Ranking Member Dutch Ruppersberger (MD-2) for their bipartisan leadership on this important piece of legislation.

Support the U.S. Talent Pipeline through STEM Education
Despite the nation’s overall unemployment rate, the high technology industry is in the midst of a skillscrisis – not a jobs crisis. The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects the U.S. to add at least 1.2 million computing jobs between 2013 and 2020. But American universities won’t produce even half the number of graduates needed to fill those positions, if they continue at their current pace.

To advance our economy and remain competitive in the global marketplace, the U.S. needs to cultivate a stronger STEM workforce ready to meet the demands for high-tech, high-skilled jobs.

That’s why IBM is taking significant steps to reduce the skills gap by making sweeping changes to U.S. academic and workforce development programs – including educating students in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). We have entered public-private partnerships with governments, school districts and postsecondary institutions to launch grade 9 – 14 schools focused on developing STEM and workplace skills. Graduates from these schools will receive both a high school diploma and an associate degree in technology, and will be first in line for jobs at IBM.

Our company also has more than 200 academic partnerships in the U.S. alone focused on Big Data analytics as well as internships with IBM Watson (our research division) that provide skills development and professional training opportunities. These are just a few examples of IBM’s commitment to increasing America’s STEM skills and employment readiness.

Encourage More High-Skilled Immigration
To continue innovating and driving economic growth, American companies must have access to the best talent.  Despite the best efforts of the private and public sectors to develop the next generation of high-skilled U.S. workers, we still have a skills shortage.  Highlighting the problem, two weeks ago the U.S. exhausted in just five days its cap for visas for high-skilled foreign workers needed to help fill the gap.

The current U.S. laws intended to address companies’ access to global talent were established nearly 25 years ago. Much has changed since then. We now operate in a globally-integrated world where new technologies such as Big Data, analytics, cloud, mobile and social technologies are transforming how we achieve our goals.

As Capitol Hill continues to discuss comprehensive immigration reform, IBM is urging lawmakers in both the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives to increase companies’ access to highly-skilled workers and to boost resources in STEM education and workforce training. Additionally, IBM believes that international students and workers in high-skilled fields should have the opportunity to stay in the U.S. as qualified workers. Immigration reform that allows employers to bridge the skills gap through greater access to high-skilled workers will play a pivotal role in driving economic growth and innovation here in America.

We greatly appreciate the opportunity to discuss IBM’s viewpoints with lawmakers this week. By working together, we believe we can blaze a smarter path to America’s future economic competitiveness.

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