Across west Kentucky and the country, the information technology sector has been growing at a rapid pace. The current and future demands of the information technology sector across west Kentucky are outpacing the current IT sector support mechanisms and the workforce development pipeline within the region, creating a regional economic development challenge.
These challenges are seen in a variety of ways. Technology related companies in our region have been challenged with finding new employees. There are challenges with education opportunities for the existing workforce as it can be costly to travel. Perhaps, the biggest challenge facing our region is the workforce pipeline, meaning there aren’t enough students enrolled in technology classes in the middle and high school levels, as well as college levels to fill the jobs that are being developed.
To address these very real challenges, representatives from dozens of businesses in west Kentucky have come together to identify the challenges, opportunities and ultimately a plan to advance the region. Out of multiple brainstorming discussions and several conversations, a new nonprofit organization is being created called the Technology Council of West Kentucky (TCWK).
The TCWK seeks to build a unified catalyst for the growth and influence of west Kentucky’s technology industry by:
• Seeking to unify the region by bringing together the west Kentucky sector and related businesses in order to provide a collective regional voice and enhance regional economic development.
• Advocating for the technology sector by attracting new technology companies to the region by promoting and demonstrating a spirit of entrepreneurship, innovation, a healthy business climate and technology awareness.
• Working to grow the workforce through recruiting, employing and retaining top technology talent by providing educational, social and networking opportunities.
• Connecting with other groups by developing new, leveraging current and supporting future technology efforts and groups within west Kentucky to create an atmosphere of collaboration, innovation and teamwork.
Though more can be undertaken and better coordination should be started to improve the technology sector, there is presently a great deal of activity under way across our region. A regional technology park is being developed by West Kentucky and Telecommunications Cooperative at the old Mid-Continent location in Mayfield, which will employ hundreds of technology workers. Many communities, including Paducah and Madisonville, are trying to establish co-working spaces, incubators, or makerspaces. Groups are beginning to establish regular meetup opportunities to network with other like-minded people.
The council will focus on many areas, but the biggest focus will be to improve the workforce pipeline. School districts across the region are working to improve the technology opportunities for their students. Paducah Public Schools received $4.275 million, Caldwell County Schools received $1.52 million, and West Kentucky Community and Technology College received $3.04 million in grant funds under the Kentucky Work Ready Skills Grant program. The technology council wants to work with the schools all across the region to continue improving technology opportunities.
For the small business operators, government officials or tech-minded individuals who want to have a part in the Technology Council of West Kentucky, your involvement would be helpful both to the council and for your business.
If you want to learn more, you can visit the council’s webpage at www.tcwk.org, email the council at [email protected], or follow the council on Facebook at www.facebook.com/techcouncilwky. The only way the council will accomplish the goals established is with the involvement from our entire region and entire technology sector.
The initial focus for the Technology Council of West Kentucky will be on the P-16 Pipeline Development Collaboration, host/cohost annual events and monthly meetups, create a technology inventory, assist with talent recruitment, provide regional collaboration and offer mentorship opportunities. With more than 30 businesses, schools and organizations involved in the initial planning, the goal is to have representatives from all areas of the region and sectors drawing from technology.
The council’s initial board of directors will include: Andy Adams, Lourdes Hospital, chair; Wes Kerr, Connected Nation, treasurer; Barry Phelps, Henderson Community College, secretary; Monica Bilak, Paducah Public Schools; Andrew Murrell, Community Financial Services Bank; Michael Ramage, Murray State University’s Center for Telecommunications Systems Management; Doug Truitt, Kalleo Technologies; Chris Wooldridge, Murray State University’s Small Business Development Center.
West Kentucky is on the verge of many great things, especially in the areas of technology. Now, the TCWK and the region needs your help. I encourage you to learn more about the council and get involved.
Michael Ramage is the director of the Center for Telecommunications Systems Management (CTSM) at Murray State University. CTSM conducts research in the various areas of technology as well as serving as a liaison between the academic and private sectors to see that a sufficient technology workforce is available. He can be reached at [email protected] or 270-809-3987 for questions or more information.
Originally published in the Four Rivers Business Journal and available at https://www.paducahsun.com/business/journal/lack-of-cybersecurity-improvement-should-be-concern-for-everyone/article_b79d33e9-af91-58f2-a40d-cb10402de7c9.html