Editor's Note: This is part of a series of stories on the Elmore County Technical Center.
When it comes to digital and computer technology, the latest and greatest hardware and software typically becomes dated in the matter of a few years in many cases.
Fortunately, educators who have a few decades experience in the IT world are not viewed as outdated. Such is the case with computer technology instructor Kenneth Spivey who teaches at Elmore County Technical Center.
“Everything changes so you have to adapt,” Spivey said. “It’s good for students to take my classes because I can show them where all this came from.”
He worked in this world back when Microsoft Disk Operating System (MS-DOS) was king.
“The students get a little background with how things used to be, how far we have come and how much easier it is to work on computers,” Spivey said.
Kids who attend school in Elmore County and are between the 10th and 12th grades may apply to take IT courses or any of the other 11 other subjects taught at the school.
Spivey teaches three different courses in IT. Those classes include IT fundamentals, IT services and computer management.
Spivey is quick to point out the success of his students. There are numerous state championship banners hanging along one wall in his classroom
“I was really proud of 2016 we went to our first state competition,” he said. “We get to the awards ceremony and we take third and second place. I started talking to them about the competition for next year and how we can get better. That next year we won a state championship. We won two state championships in 2018 and two in 2019.”
The championships are sanctioned by SkillsUSA. Each state champion qualifies for a spot in national competition.
“The kids now are really fired up about going,” he said. “They are working harder to get better. If they win the state championship they get to go to nationals in Louisville, Kentucky. They’d seen the success of the kids from previous years and they want to do that. That’s helped tremendously as far as effort. I’m not having to beat them up to put forth effort.”
Previous graduates of the IT program have landed meaningful employment.
“One of the kids on that 2016 state team graduated high school and first day out he was an intern with Shaw IT,” Spivey said. “Today, he is on with the company full time and doing well.”
Several of Spivey’s students are eyeing IT careers.
“I picked (IT courses) because I’ve always wanted to do cybersecurity,” Stanhope Elmore junior Jace Clinger said. “My dad does IT work at Maxwell (Air Force Base). I’ve always had a thing for computers. My favorite is the hands-on learning. I get to actually look into and see what I am doing.”
Clinger is looking at going to college and joining the U.S. Air Force as an officer.
“There are plenty of programmers and plenty of networking people,” Spivey said. “There is a shortage of well-rounded IT professionals.”
According to Spivey, a student who takes all three years of IT courses will receive a broad range of education from hardware repair and database management to IT support over the telephone.
As for the ever-evolving IT environment, Spivey sees cybersecurity as being a top priority.
“Malware, adware and virus issues recently shut down two school systems completely,” he said. “What you’ve created with networked computers and social media is a new door that needs monitored. These kids are learning things we did not have to learn.
“That’s where I see it going. Security is going to be a high-demand job. Bad people want to come in and get what you have.”