Closing the skills gap: Microsoft donates $10 MM to UW computer science; manufacturers looking for qualified workers

There’s mixed news on the skills gap today. We’ve written about it frequently, most recently here

The Seattle Times reports a significant donation by Microsoft. 

Microsoft is donating $10 million to the University of Washington to kick-start a campaign for a new computer-science building on campus.

The donation was announced late Thursday, and it’s meant to launch the effort aimed at expanding the UW’s computer-science department.

The Times also says that Microsoft wants the donation to spur action from the Legislature.

An investment from the state “is critical, given that this is a public university, and at the heart of so many jobs the state is creating,” said Brad Smith, Microsoft’s general counsel and executive vice president of legal and corporate affairs.

State support would provide a substantial boost to private fund-raising. Student demand for computer science education continues to increase, as does demand from employers looking for trained, local talent.

As we pointed out previously, tech employers rely heavily on imported talent. Fortunately, Washington is an attractive destination for the tech savvy, because of the cluster of world-class innovation firms, a great quality of life, and (relatively) affordable housing.

The Washington Research Council has recently reported on the role tax policy plays in relocation and migration (here and here). The Council has also taken an informed look at how the state Senate’s budget and tuition proposals would affect higher education

As the state and corporate leaders step up efforts to increase the talent pool, the Columbian reports that manufacturers in Southwest Washington struggle to find qualified employees

In an era when manufacturing is perceived by many to be in steady decline, some Portland-Vancouver area employers say they have more manufacturing jobs than workers ready and willing to build their products.

…Speakers at the 90-minute forum said that even with plenty of applicants for some manufacturing jobs, they’re finding too few who have the skills or the aptitude to work in what can be a demanding field.

 By 2020, 70 percent of Washington jobs will require postsecondary education or training. Closing the skills gap remains one of our top priorities for shared prosperity.