WASHINGTON — Faced with 6,000 job openings and a Congress unresponsive to admitting more skilled workers from overseas, Microsoft on Thursday offered what it hopes will be a twofer solution: charging employers hundreds of millions of dollars for the right to hire more foreigners and using the money for educational training to eventually fill those jobs with Americans.
The proposal, which Microsoft unveiled in Washington, D.C., is the company’s most public foray into the protracted ideological battle over immigration reform and quotas on temporary visas for high-skill foreign workers.
Microsoft is attempting to sidestep such controversies as citizenship for undocumented immigrants that led Senate Republicans to block a comprehensive reform bill in 2010. Instead, the Redmond-based software giant framed the issue in stark economic terms – in a nation beset by high unemployment rates, six-figure-salary jobs are going begging for qualified hires, particularly minorities.
For instance, the U.S. is expected to add an average of 120,000 computer-related jobs requiring at least a bachelor’s degree for each of the next 10 years. But colleges and universities are minting half as many graduates as needed.
“It’s a problem that’s approaching dimensions of a genuine crisis,” said Brad Smith, Microsoft executive vice president and general counsel. Smith held a briefing for reporters at Microsoft’s D.C. office on K Street before his speech at the Brookings Institution, a nonpartisan think tank.