PADUCAH, Ky. (KFVS) - More than 250 Heartland high school students and West Kentucky Community and Technical College (WKCTC) students attended the college’s third annual IT CONNECT conference November 15.
The information technology (IT) conference brought IT professionals, to share about the ever-changing industry.
The conference, designed to provide information and a networking opportunity for those who attended, began in WKCTC’s Clemens Fine Arts Center and included various sessions across campus.
The day’s keynote speakers, Wes Kerr and Wes Spencer, western Kentucky natives and Murray State University (MSU) graduates from the Technology Systems Management program, shared with the students, IT career opportunities include some jobs that haven’t even been thought of yet.
"It's hard for students to understand that they could be working in artificial intelligence in manufacturing or in agriculture. It's happening today but the extent to which those technologies and those industries will impact previous industries just hasn't been explored yet," said Kerr, who is the senior manager of technical services at Bowling Green's Connected Nation.
These jobs are across the world, but are also available to local students who want to work in the IT industry.
"When you show up at an IT conference, the students are thinking about Cisco or what we would call the IT industry today, and in reality, the IT industry is growing and is infiltrating into all these other industries I mentioned before, and so for them (the students) to have a more expanded understanding of where IT fits in, doesn't mean they necessarily have to be in Silicon Valley or in Dallas," said Kerr. "They can be in west Kentucky working....the opportunities locally are growing for them."
Spencer, who is a nationally recognized technology innovator and cybersecurity expert at Florida's Perch Security, said there are roughly 1,600 IT jobs currently open in Kentucky.
"It could be beyond that because the jobs are remote also. You are seeing a lot of new opportunities that allow remote work. They (students) can work from home."
Spencer said “So, for me, it’s a privilege to be able to come back and speak to those kids, and like we said (he and Kerr), to cast a vision to them to understand, ‘you can do this too, whether that’s local, that’s great; whether that’s somewhere in the U.S. or even internationally. The opportunities are there. Whatever their dream is, they can go and do it.”
Paducah Tilghman High School junior Brandon McFarland, who wants to work in cybersecurity, said he learned a lot at the conference.
“I had questions that I had answered as far as career choices and things I may be interested in. They (Kerr and Spencer) changed my perspective. They made me think more out the box...technology is everywhere.”
He said he would like to attend WKCTC is in his future after graduation. “It’s a very good opportunity...and I’m very excited and hopeful I can start my IT career here.” He said he also hopes to get an internship at a local IT company and possibly transfer to MSU, like Kerr and Spencer, to continue his education.
Other conference speakers included Jeff Nelson, CSI - Paducah office; Bruce Lunde, Sprocket Paducah; Willie Kerns, SmartPath Technologies; Andy Adams, Four Rivers Nuclear Partnerships/Twin Rivers Investigations; Jay Orazine, Baptist Health Paducah; and Steve Smith, Kentucky State Police Hazardous Device Unit.