A small robotic car may be a sign of West Virginia’s future. It was built by high school students and shown off at the annual Tech Connect Coding and Cyber Summit in Charleston.
It’s all part of the goal of diversifying West Virginia’s economy, by landing more high-tech jobs.
“We can do this here. We need to address broadband connectivity. We’ve got to make sure we have education programs in place, which is part of what we are talking about today at this summit. And we’ve got to foster a spirit of entrepreneurship,” said Anne Barth, Executive Director of TechConnect West Virginia.
That involves training young people for the jobs of the future. While robots look like toys, they are an opening to many students in the Mountain State.
“I’m a senior. I’m 18. What opportunity we have is that there’s a major field out there. That we can learn medical supplies. We can learn how to go in there and manufacture for people,” said Jack Shearer, an 18-year old student at Project Lead the Way Computer Science Essentials.
In Washington, DC, there’s a been a push to get better broadband service to West Virginia, because access to tech means opportunity.
“Well I think one of the things we need is the workforce that can do these jobs. The software engineers, the software developers, the coders,” said Senator Shelley Moore Capito, (R-West Virginia).
And the ability to telecommute means places like West Virginia may be more attractive than crowded Silicon Valley
“I’ll be honest, more and more people in the Valley, people are getting challenged with the cost of living and all these dynamics. People are looking to do these jobs and can I do this job somewhere else where the quality of living is better? Where I’m not running around all the time. Where I’m not dealing with tons of traffic,” said Jason Rolleston the Vice President of Security Intelligence, for McAfee.
The field of cybersecurity, with military and business applications, is seen a the biggest growth area right now.
While Silicon Valley and West Virginia are thousands of miles apart, technology has made the world a much smaller place. And it’s clear that some of those training, education and job opportunities are coming this way.