Attracting and training the needed quantum workforce to fuel the ongoing quantum information sciences (QIS) revolution is a hot topic these days. Last week, the U.S. National Science and Technology Council issued a report – The Role of International Talent in Quantum Information Science – which noted, among other things, there simply isn’t enough domestic talent to fill the QIS workforce needs and foreign-born talent will be required.
The NSTC report noted that over the last decade, VC funding has “invested more than $2.5 billion USD in over 100 quantum-related startups, and the U.S. Quantum Economic Development Consortium (QED-C) now has a membership of over 160 U.S. companies, universities, and non-profits. Many QED-C members have international offices or employ foreign nationals, and their success is dependent on a competitive and fair global market.”
While those statistics paint a robust picture of a young industry about to mushroom in size, they also spotlight how important developing an adequate workforce – size and skillsets – will be. As pointed out in NSTC report, the U.S. output of science and technology degrees obtained by U.S. citizens has lagged much of the world, particularly at relevant graduate degree levels.
The bottom line, according to NSTC:
“Talent required to develop QIST is currently in short supply, both nationally and internationally. Global investments in QIST are intensifying the workforce shortage as countries strive to produce, attract, and retain top talent. Increasing the capacity for QIST R&D in companies, universities, and national laboratories, and the Federal government will require a sustained commitment to grow a diverse and expert workforce. Welcoming international researchers and fostering international cooperation will remain important. Joint efforts on education, training, and workforce development are mutually beneficial for the United States and its partners and allies.”
This latest report is sure to add to the intensifying debate and preparations surrounding QIS workforce development. In August, the Quantum Economic Development Consortium (QED-C) weighed in with a report on needed specific skills. The latter report emphasized that many QIS industry jobs won’t necessarily require degreed applicants.
The NSTC report is filled with a variety of STEM data and it acknowledges familiar national security and labor concerns around foreign-born workers and students. It also makes an effort to demonstrate the value foreign-born students and workers have brought to the U.S.
“Of the 95 Nobel Prizes from 2000 to 2019 recognizing U.S. scientists, over one-third were awarded to immigrants to the United States. Another example comes from the U.S National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and three of its Nobel Laureates. They each shared the Prize with a colleague who either immigrated to, spent time in, or, from abroad, mentored students who carried out forefront research in the United States. This flow of talent and knowledge into and out of the United States led to benefits not just for the United States, but also for the global scientific enterprise,” according to the report.
“The U.S. demand for an expert QIST workforce can most effectively be addressed by increasing the domestic pipeline while also sustaining and promoting the influx of top international students and immigrants. Disruptions to the flow of international talent would slow R&D, lower supply, and increase domestic need, thereby significantly hampering efforts to meet the rising QIST workforce demands.”
Broadly, the report highlights the important role international talent plays in ensuring a vibrant and successful U.S. research enterprise in QIST, including the importance of close collaboration with foreign partners, while also stressing the importance of protecting the technology and expertise of the United States and our international partners. It finds that “maintaining a strong flow of international students and researchers is an essential component to developing the expert QIST workforce required to achieve U.S. QIST goals as part of an advancing global research enterprise.”
The report makes the following recommendation:
- The United States should continue to develop and support policies that welcome talented individuals from all over the world, while implementing appropriately balanced protections that mitigate potential research security concerns.
- Federal organizations should engage in close collaboration with allies and partners to ensure a vibrant and secure international QIST ecosystem that is underpinned by shared values and principles including freedom of inquiry, merit-based competition, openness and transparency, accountability, and reciprocity.
- The NSTC Subcommittee on Quantum Information Science (SCQIS) should develop a five-year strategic plan for QIST workforce development, to assess evolving workforce needs, grow the domestic pool of talent, and foster ways to attract and retain top QIST talent from around the world.
- Federal organizations that fund research, development, and acquisition of QIST should develop coordinated, comprehensive technology protection plans to safeguard intellectual capital and property, while accounting for specific mission needs. These measures should address current and evolving methods used to target U.S. technology, while promoting U.S. ideals of open and transparent R&D.
Link to NSTC report, https://www.quantum.gov/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/2021_NSTC_ESIX_INTL_TALENT_QIS.pdf
Link to the U.S. Quantum Initiative website, https://www.quantum.gov
Recent Reports under the Quantum Initiative banner
- The Role of International Talent in Quantum Information Science, October 5, 2021
- A Coordinated Approach to Quantum Networking Research, January 19, 2021
- Annual Report on the NQI Program Budget, January 14, 2021
- Quantum Frontiers Report, October 7, 2020
- A Strategic Vision for America’s Quantum Networks, February 7, 2020
- National Strategic Overview for Quantum Information Science, September 24, 2018