By Jennifer Martinez - 01/21/13 06:42 PM EST
The issue is a cornerstone policy priority for tech giants such as Microsoft and Intel, which argue that they struggle to fill positions for engineering and research jobs because most applicants don't have the requisite skills for these positions. Tech companies also argue that they want to keep this talent in the U.S. rather than lose it to competitors abroad.
High-skilled immigration legislation has typically enjoyed bipartisan support, but past efforts to pass such measures have been tangled up in the larger immigration debate. The momentum for passing a comprehensive immigration package has ramped up after Obama received roughly 70 percent of the Hispanic vote during the 2012 election.
Sen. Marco RubioMarco RubioGOP women push Trump on VP pick Senate confirms Obama's long-stalled ambassador to Mexico Sanders is most popular senator, according to constituent poll MORE (R-Fla.) is working with Sen. Orrin HatchOrrin HatchIRS: Annual unpaid tax liability was 8 billion Hatch asks Treasury for memo that decreases transparency of tax rules Senators roll out changes to criminal justice bill MORE (R-Utah) to put forward immigration legislation, which is expected to include a high-skilled immigration measure. In an interview with The Wall Street Journal this month, Rubio said bringing more high-skilled labor into the U.S. would be beneficial to the economy.
Sens. Chris CoonsChris CoonsHouse clears trade secrets bill for Obama's signature Senators aim to bolster active shooter training The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE (D-Del.) and Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharSenate passes resolution honoring Prince CBS News lands Sanders as WHCA dinner guest Minnesota senators praise Prince on Senate floor MORE (D-Minn.) are said to be working with Rubio on the high-skilled measure.
During his address, Obama also called for the U.S. to work together to improve math and science education programs in the country, which he said would prepare students for the jobs of the future.
"No single person can train all the math and science teachers we’ll need to equip our children for the future, or build the roads and networks and research labs that will bring new jobs and businesses to our shores," Obama said. "Now, more than ever, we must do these things together, as one nation, and one people."
He also noted that technology would be key to updating a variety of "outworn" programs, both inside and outside government.
"We understand that outworn programs are inadequate to the needs of our time. We must harness new ideas and technology to remake our government, revamp our tax code, reform our schools, and empower our citizens with the skills they need to work harder, learn more, and reach higher," Obama said.
Additionally, the president said the U.S. needs to continue fostering technology and innovation, particuarly green tech, so it can stay competitive globally.
"The path toward sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But America cannot resist this transition; we must lead it. We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries — we must claim its promise," Obama said. "That is how we will maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure — our forests and waterways; our croplands and snowcapped peaks."
— This post was updated at 2:29 p.m.