ATC students put skills to work fixing IT issues

Jacob Green has been a part of the information technology program offered by the Clark County Area Technology Center offers since he started high school.

Green, now a senior at George Rogers Clark High School, is putting the skills he’s learned to use by fixing phones, repairing computers, removing viruses, installing software and more.

“I think this will help me in my future life,” Green said.

In the advanced courses, Green and other students are a part of the GRC Help Desk, a critical component to ensuring all technology in the building is up to par.

Robbie Barnes, the primary instructor in the IT program for about five years, said the classes are designed to provide students with concepts and skills needed to diagnose and repair personal computers as well as to allow students to view other parts of the technology industry such as networking and security.

“[The program has] offered things from computer science to programming to now Help Desk operations … things to teach them how to get a job in the IT industry in the entry level, and then progress on hopefully into a better career path for them,” Barnes said.

Barnes said he has more than 120 students in the entire program and about 44 of those students are in the advanced classes.

“The biggest advantage for taking classes down here is we give them the opportunity to earn certifications such as the A+ or the Network+ or It Fundamentals,” Barnes said. “Those are all certifications that they could take with them into the job and get a job right out of high school if they choose to do so.”

Barnes said if students choose the college route, those certifications may count as college credit.

“Another thing that’s important is those certifications they get to earn are completely paid for by the school system, by the state of Kentucky,” Barnes said.

The typical cost of the certifications is more than $400.

Barnes said the program is currently at capacity and some students must wait to register for the IT classes until their sophomore year.

“I would love to see maybe another teacher that teaches kind of similar information that we could bring on to expand the opportunities for the students,” Barnes said. “And the business side of it would be great to continue for the kids that don’t want to do computers. But they want to take the Microsoft Office program and those things and then apply that too, maybe a marketing degree or those types of things.

“So we’d like to bring on another teacher that they could help out with that and give more students an opportunity just to be able to take information technology pathway.”

Barnes said the IT industry is booming and there aren’t enough qualified workers to fill the vacancies.

“I went to a conference this last year, and the gentleman was out of Louisville, and he said in Louisville alone, there were over 40,000 IT jobs that can’t be filled over the next 10 years,” Barnes said. “So they’re begging for students like ours to take advantage of those career opportunities.”

Barnes said he often receives calls from employers looking for workers with a robust knowledge of computers.

“It’s one of those careers that they can go into, and start right away with the entry-level jobs, whether it be on a help desk, or customer service representatives,” Barnes said. “There are many companies here in Winchester that provide opportunities for students, and then they give them an opportunity to build their way up into that IT industry.”

Barnes said it’s important to have this program available to students because of the prevalence of technology.

“Everybody carries a computer in their pocket,” Barnes said. “And they need somebody to work on it when it breaks. And that’s what we’re teaching our students. So your phone is more advanced than the computers were 10 years ago. So it’s going to get better; it’s going to get faster, smaller, those are always in things that we as an IT industry have to be on top of and ready to repair.”

Green said his interest in computers piqued in the eighth grade. After touring ATC’s facilities, Green knew he had to take Barnes’ class.

Green said he was interested in learning the ins and outs of computers — how they work, what each component does, how to assemble one and more. Green said he’s also learned some coding.

“I started watching YouTube videos and stuff,” Green said. “And then I made my way into the class.”

Throughout his four years in the program, Green said he’d earned a few certificates along the way.

“I have certifications as a Microsoft technology associate,” Green said. “So I know a lot about different Microsoft programs, and some that I’d never even heard of before.”

The IT program even inspired Green to pursue a degree in computer engineering once he graduates high school.

“The way I thought about it was the future is now,” Green said. “It’s here. Computers are the future.”