More than 400 west Kentucky high school students were encouraged on Friday to consider working in the growing field of cybersecurity. Murray State University alumni working in the field spoke at the West Kentucky Community and Technical College’s IT-Connect conference.
Forrest Carver is a Principal Cybersecurity Engineer with the nonprofit MITRE Corporation. His presentation touched on the high demand for cybersecurity and IT professionals and the ever-expanding threat of cybercrimes. At one point in his presentation, he called on students to name countries they'd like to visit and explained how either he or his colleagues had opportunities to globe-trot working for the industry.
Carver said most of the students he graduated with at Carlisle County High School in rural west Kentucky expected to be farmers or workers at local factories. He said he wants young people to realize they are not limited because of where they live.
“And that they may not think WKCTC, Murray State, these local schools - they probably don’t think they’re that interesting compared to schools you hear about all the time, but I’ve really found in real life, the education that we’re providing at these schools is just as good if not better than, really nationally recognized schools," Carver said.
Carver is a Murray State University graduate.
Carver pointed to a 2018 (ISC)² workforce study that found the global shortage of cybersecurity workforce professionals is roughly 2.93 million, with around 498,000 of those positions in North America.
Representatives from the FBI presenting at the conference said almost every case requires some cyber-skills expertise.
Intelligence Analyst Zachary Smith - also a Murray State alum - shared what cybercrimes look like and how to be smart online.
Special Agent Mark Coleman discussed how the agency seeks smart people with computer skills right out of college.
When asked after the presentation whether schools in rural areas, like Murray State and WKCTC, are viable options for students looking to one-day work for the FBI, Coleman said “absolutely.”
“The information they’re getting is important, the knowledge is what’s important. A degree is a piece of paper. It doesn’t matter where it came from. It’s what’s behind it that matters," said Coleman.
MSU Telecommunications System Management Director Michael Ramage also spoke at the event. In past discussions with WKMS, he has discussed the need to encourage students to major in computer-related fields as well as IT graduates who want to stay in the region.
Drawings for prizes were held throughout the day. Early in the morning, students in the audience especially perked up upon learning organizers were giving away several Raspberry Pi computer kits.