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At the Republican presidential debate in Washington, the conversation turned to immigration and the need to attract highly skilled immigrants to the United States.
To emphasize the need for more engineers, Rep. Michele Bachmann cited a comment that she said Apple CEO Steve Jobs made in a meeting with President Obama. She said Jobs "said to President Barack Obama that he had to move a great deal of his operation over to China because he couldn't find 30,000 engineers to be able to do the work that needed to be done. That's what we want to do."
Jobs' two meetings with Obama in 2010 and 2011 are detailed in the new biography of the Apple leader by author Walter Isaacson.
The book recounts the first meeting occurred at a hotel at the San Francisco airport in the fall of 2010. Isaacson, relying on accounts from White House aides and Jobs himself, wrote that Jobs told Obama bluntly, "You're headed for a one-term presidency" and urged the Democratic president to be more business-friendly. Jobs told Obama how easy it was to build a factory in China, in contrast to the difficulties caused by regulations and extra costs in the United States.
Isaacson's book says Jobs offered to put together a group of CEOs for another meeting, which was held early this year.
Jobs, who died Oct. 5, 2011, was looking thin and frail because of his cancer but still managed to be passionate about the need for more engineers.
"When Jobs' turn came," Isaacson wrote, "he stressed the need for more trained engineers and suggested that any foreign students who earned an engineering degree in the United States should be given a visa to stay in the country."
The book says that "Jobs went on to urge that a way be found to train more American engineers. Apple had 700,000 factory workers employed in China, he said, and that was because it needed 30,000 engineers on-site to support those workers. 'You can't find that many in America to hire,' he said. These factory engineers did not have to be PhDs or geniuses; they simply needed to have basic engineering skills for manufacturing. Tech schools, community colleges, or trade schools could train them.
"'If you could educate these engineers,' he said, 'we could move more manufacturing plants here.'"
Isaacson wrote that the argument "made a strong impression on the president. Two or three times over the next month he told his aides, 'We've got to find ways to train those 30,000 manufacturing engineers that Jobs told us about.'"
So Bachmann has accurately recounted the conversation. We rate her claim True.
Walter Isaacson, Steve Jobs, Chapter 41: Round Three
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