Calling attention to the work skills needed for Year 2000

December 13, 1990|By Wiley Hall 3rd

The Career Communications Group publishes three professional magazines, hosts two national conferences annually, and is now branching out into television.

But what the company really sells is an idea.

"We've been successful in terms of profits and growth, but I don't think that's what's really exciting about this company," said Tyrone Taborn, the founder and CEO of the Baltimore-based firm.

"What's fascinating is that we are a minority-owned company which is having a major impact on one of the most important hTC issues facing America today, and that is Workforce 2000."

Workforce 2000?

"We're looking at the availability of skilled people in this country -- the people who are going to build the roads, design the airplanes, construct the bridges and program the computers going into the next century," Mr. Taborn continued.

"And basically, we're out there sounding the alarm, trying to get the country's attention focused on the idea that unless we act now, there will be a shortage of skilled professionals entering the marketplace."

In 1987, a massive study by the Department of Labor and the Hudson Institute reported the astonishing news that the sex, complexion, and cultural background of the average worker is likely to change dramatically by the year 2000.

Researchers found that while white males constitute 47 percent of today's work force, white males will make up just 15 percent of those seeking jobs by the year 2000.

Employees of the future will be predominantly women, African-Americans, Hispanics or immigrants, according to the report.

While the study, titled "Workforce 2000," promised increased opportunities to minorities, it threatened new problems for employers.

Women, for instance, will force industry to cope with the problem of child care. Immigrants from Asia and Eastern Europe wil have language and cultural barriers.

And African Americans and Hispanics, many of whom today receive inferior educations in underfunded school districts, will bring with them special problems of preparedness. The problem gets worse: According to the authors of "Workforce 2000," the technology of the future will require workers that are even better educated than they are now.

Cue the Career Communications Group, now 5 years old.

"As I said, we're ringing the alarm," repeated Mr. Taborn. "We are a communications company with a mission, and that is to encourage people to think about their future in the science and technical fields, particularly minorities. Everything we do centers that objective."

Career Communications publishes two magazines, US Black Engineer and Hispanic Engineer, geared toward minority college students. A third, relatively new magazine, Professional, goes directly to minorities already in the field.

In addition, Career Communications hosts two lucrative professional conferences each year that address the Workforce 2000 issue in two important ways.

First, the conference programs help encourage high school and college students to excel in the technical fields.

Second, a job fair component to the conference helps match professionals with employers.

The black engineer of the year awards conference is held in February in Baltimore. The Hispanic engineer awards are held in October in Houston.

Now, the firm is moving into television.

This year, Career Communications entered a joint agreement with the Group W Broadcasting to air this February's Black Engineer of the Year awards conference.

The program, scheduled to air in the five Group W markets in Baltimore, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Boston and San Francisco, will feature celebrities such as Ossie Davis, Danny Glover and Roberta Flack, as well as successful black engineers talking about their careers.

Mr. Taborn estimates the program could reach some 10 million people in the five cities. The show will be geared toward young people.

"The message to the young people, and it is a powerful message, is that here is a person who has made a successful career in science and engineering, he might be a vice president of Boeing Aircraft, for instance, and he wasn't born with a silver calculator in his hand," Mr. Taborn said.

"We'll have vignettes featuring the professional describing how he or she made it despite having a tough time, and how you can do it, too, even if you're having a tough time.

"If you buy into the notion that kids follow the negative role models," said Mr. Taborn, "you also have to accept that positive role models can be just as compelling."

Speaking of compelling: Career Communications' ability to market its idea has led to dramatic growth for the company over the past few years.

According to Mr. Taborn, the company had $2.3 million in sales over the past fiscal year, compared with sales of $1.7 million the year before. Next year, he expects total sales to increase to $4 million.

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