CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A push for more opportunities for West Virginians looking to latch on to knowledge sector and digital economy is starting to pay dividends, according to Anne Barth, the Executive Director of TechConnect West Virginia.
Barth expressed excitement and encouragement about technology industries from the 2018 West Virginia Coding & Cyber Summit in Charleston on Thursday. She was the host of the event that focused on workforce needs and education of technology classes and programs in the state.
“Tech jobs are really important because they are the jobs of today and tomorrow,” she said. “They pay better on average than other jobs. Every industry is finding it’s a tech industry now between the clouds and the internet and the advances in tech. We are finding that everything from entertainment to banking has a tech feature.
“We must have our students prepared. I’m thrilled at the work that has been done in the K to 12 level to introduce students to coding and the idea of cyber and coding, so our students know this is where they can land a job when they are done with school. We want to make sure they have a clear educational pathway.”
Around 50 students joined the crowd of about 200 preregistered guests at the summit. Barth said the students were able to make it to the summit thanks to a scholarship by DataStax and CEO Billy Bosworth. Bosworth wanted to honor Brad Smith, CEO of Intuit and West Virginia native, as Intuit Financial Freedom Foundation was the co-sponsor of the event.
“We look at students and see the future for West Virginia,” Barth said. “These are new emerging sectors of jobs, a way to grow the economy in West Virginia and really advance our position in the innovation economy.”
Some students at the summit were a group from Wyoming County Career and Technical Center. They were showing spectators of their table how to code their robot, “SCORBOT-ER.”
“I enjoy this because it is interesting,” Sebastian Brooks, a Wyoming County Career and Technical Center student, said on why he enjoys the field. “Not many people do it and not many people know much about it.”
The number of participants at the summit grew by 50 percent from last year’s summit, according to Barth. At last year’s event, they formed a group of more than 70 stakeholders to discuss what programs are being offered in the higher education and K to 12 schools and what can be done to take advantage of the growing industry. The stakeholders met this year and continued those discussions.
“What we are doing with this working group is really trying to come together for a strategy to show to the state,” Barth said. “We want to say, “Look here is the opportunity, here is what we know of what is happening.” Cyber jobs are expected to grow 28 percent between now and 2026.
“Let’s get ready in West Virginia and take advantage of this. Because we are close to the eastern seaboard, we are close to D.C. We are already home to many important cyber assets like the FBI and DOD biometrics in North Central West Virginia. So it’s a perfect time for West Virginia.”
The event featured more than twenty-five industry experts from technology giants including the FBI, U.S. Department of Energy, Northrop Grumman Corporation, Intuit, McAfee, IBM, and the Center for Internet Security.