Microsoft has a promising plan to break the logjam in Congress over immigration reform, at least in the high-skills arena. The software company proposes Congress expand by 20,000 the number of H-1B visa permits companies use to bring overseas hires to the U.S. The increase would be targeted to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM)...

Microsoft has a promising plan to break the logjam in Congress over immigration reform, at least in the high-skills arena. The software company proposes Congress expand by 20,000 the number of H-1B visa permits companies use to bring overseas hires to the U.S. The increase would be targeted to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) jobs.

That greatly helps Microsoft which currently has 6,000 job openings – more than half of which require technolology and science skils. But it also addresses a skills shortage faced by many companies beyond the technology industry. This Seattle Times editorial pointed to the widening gap between available jobs and the skill levels of job seekers as an urgent problem. This Brookings Institution study drilled into the education gap.

Microsoft is not simply trying to solve the immediate worker shortage.The software company proposes boosting the H-1B visa fee to $10,000 to raise money for a STEM-version of the Race to the Top federal grant program spurring education reform in schools. Race to the Future would pay for efforts such as hiring STEM teachers and adding computer science classes in high schools.

The plan was oulined onThursday at an event in Washington, D.C. at the Brookings Institution, Brad Smith, Executive Vice President and General Counsel at Microsoft, outlined the plan Thursday in Washington, D.C.