Silicon Valley has jobs advice for Washington

August 2, 2011: 4:41 PM ET

The president asked for ideas to improve job creation and innovation. Now the technorati are delivering.

FORTUNE -- With the debt ceiling standoff resolved (sort of), Silicon Valley's technorati gathered in Palo Alto, California Tuesday morning to dole out advice on Washington's next gargantuan problem, job creation.

Tech heavyweights like Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, venture capitalist John Doerr and Steve Case, founder of AOL -- all members of President Barack Obama's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness -- emphasized the importance of immigration reform and better education in generating jobs and innovation. The Council was formed about six months ago to provide non-partisan advice to the President on how the government can "best foster growth, competitiveness, innovation, and job creation." It is schedule to meet with him in the fall to deliver policy recommendations.

"We have to focus on our education system," said Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg. "We're falling behind in every way possible." Sandberg talked about what can be done to get more women in particular into high-tech jobs, such as giving girls more time with computers from an early age. "Let your daughters play video games," she told an audience comprised of educators, entrepreneurs and investors.

Sandberg also talked about the role Facebook's ecosystem of developers has played in job creation. While Facebook employs about 2,600 employees, she noted that there are 2.5 million developers globally creating applications for the social network. She added that Facebook has also given rise to entire new industries, like social media consulting.

On immigration reform, the panel urged the government not only to make it easier for high-skilled workers to stay in the United States, but also to provide incentives for more professionals to enter the U.S. market. Aneesh Chopra, chief technology officer of the United States and another panelist, announced that the government will "clarify" its policy on visas for immigrant entrepreneurs and investors, including those who sponsor themselves.

Naturally, the panelists also devoted a lot of time to discussing the role technology will play in education. "The next big story will be the impact of technology on education," said Netflix's (NFLX) Reed Hastings, who also participated in the discussion, held at virtualization software maker VMware's campus. "It's transformed the practice of medicine and many fields but not really education."

Hastings singled out new web-based learning initiatives like the Kahn Academy and DreamBox learning and the role they could play in advancing education. "It's just starting to emerge," said Hastings. "In another 20 years we'll look back at someone lecturing to a class and think, 'that's so antiquated.'"

Silicon Valley is not the only region the President is looking to for advice on job creation. Similar panels are taking place in other parts of the country. But the Council on Jobs and Competitiveness is just six months in, so how big of an influence Silicon Valley can have on policy reform remains to be seen.

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About This Author
Michal Lev-Ram
Michal Lev-Ram
Writer, Fortune

Based in Silicon Valley, Michal Lev-Ram covers enterprise and mobile technologies for FORTUNE. Prior to joining FORTUNE, she wrote for CNNMoney, Fast Company, Popular Science and other business and technology publications. She was also a staff writer at Business 2.0 and holds a B.A. in journalism from San Francisco State University.

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