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Trump's State of the Union speech can't neglect US tech leadership

The technology industry is driven by the potential the future holds. From turning a simple code into a device that can detect diseases and save lives, to growing a small online network among friends into a global platform that transforms the way we communicate, we’re always looking forward. The State of the Union address offers a key moment for the president to outline his vision for the future, too.

As President Trump prepares in the final hours before his address, we encourage him to put a spotlight on the priorities and initiatives our industry believes will improve the lives of real people and place America on a pathway to remain a land of ingenuity and leadership. We suggest focusing on the following areas:

Nothing is more important to the United States’ future than ensuring Americans are prepared to lead productive lives. To achieve that goal, America must become a place of life-long learners and home to the best and brightest.

Rarely a day goes by without news of digitization, artificial intelligence, and virtual reality affecting the workplace. While no one knows for sure what the impact of this will be, we do know the world of work is changing, and we must address these evolving demands. In 2016, there were approximately 3.3 million science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) jobs openings in the U.S. posted online. By contrast, in that same year, U.S. universities graduated 568,000 students with STEM degrees. We need a nationwide initiative to invest in training and provide future generations of workers with the skills they need to meet the demands of a 21st-century workforce and approaches to continually update those skills.

While our sector is leading the effort to do just that, it will take a nationwide commitment with the support of government and academic partners to ensure we are providing the best education and training so the American workforce can meet the demands of the jobs of tomorrow.

If the U.S. is to be home to the best and brightest, it needs a new approach to immigration. Immigrants are behind many of the ideas and innovations that have created thousands of jobs, boosted economic growth and made the U.S. a leader in the tech industry. In fact, half of the 87 startup companies valued at more than $1 billion in the U.S. were founded by at least one immigrant, and each of these companies now employs an average of 760 U.S. workers.

However, the current U.S. immigration system cannot meet the needs of today’s economy and is not equipped for future demands. U.S. policies must support and recognize the innovative contributions and diverse talents of people of all backgrounds to grow the economy and make the country as competitive as possible. The U.S. must embrace policies like high-skilled worker visas so companies, manufacturers, and small businesses can attract the world’s best talent to work in the U.S. alongside the pacesetters, entrepreneurs, and other individuals who power the U.S. workforce, drive innovation, create jobs, and help the country compete globally. This effort must also speak to U.S. values by including a permanent legislative solution for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients to ensure these hard-working young people can continue to contribute to their communities and the economy.

Further, to ensure U.S. companies thrive in our digital reality, they must have unfettered access to competitive, fast-growing markets abroad. That means U.S. trade policies across the globe must allow for the free flow of data and expansion of technology across borders. In turn, the U.S. will see economic growth, job creation, and reap the benefits of trade for years to come. As part of that effort, the U.S. must commit to supporting a NAFTA agreement that enshrines strong provisions to modernize digital trade, continue to grow business, and encourage innovation.

First published in the Hill.

Public Policy Tags: Broadband, Communications, & Spectrum, Internet of Things, Trade & Investment, Artificial Intelligence, Immigration