Blacks courted at engineers conference


The sluggish economy notwithstanding, plenty of hiring was expected to take place at the Black Engineer of the Year Awards Conference, which winds up at the Baltimore Convention Center tonight.

"It's a forum for recruiting, and we are recruiting at this conference -- we have a booth to attract people," said Buzz Bartlett, a spokesman for Martin Marietta Corp.

"We've been a co-sponsor of the conference for three years, because we think it does the right things to interest minorities in engineering," Mr. Bartlett said. "I hope that we've gained visibility as a good place to work -- a place where a black engineer might go to look for a job."

The conference was conceived five years ago by Baltimore-based Careers Communications Group Inc. This year's meeting began Thursday at the Inner Harbor with a ceremony in front of the USS Boulder, which sailed to Baltimore for the gathering. At least 3,000 people were expected to attend, most of them students, as well as professors and representatives of industry and government

Among the scheduled activities are career-development seminars, career fairs and social events. The three-day event will be capped off tonight with an awards ceremony at the Baltimore Convention Center, which will be followed by a concert.

There are several reasons that major corporations have been tendering employment offers at the conference despite the recession, said Tyrone Taborn, president of Career Communications.

One reason is "that corporations always need technical people," Mr. Taborn said. "That kind of hiring never stops. Even if a Westinghouse is laying off, they are still looking at entry level engineers.

"At this point, companies struggle to stay part of events like this," said Mr. Taborn, whose firm also publishes three magazines -- US Black Engineer, Hispanic Engineer and Professional Magazine -- geared primarily toward minority engineers.

"They can't afford to lose their recruiting edge. They cannot afford to send a message to the best and the brightest that a career at their company is precarious at best."

Career Communications is going beyond the usual promotional activities associated with the Black Engineer of the Year Awards Conference to make a foray into television this year.

Tonight's awards presentation at the Baltimore Convention Center will be videotaped and shown as a one-hour special on WJZ-TV, Channel 13 later this month. The program will also be aired on television stations in other metropolitan areas, including Chicago, Boston, San Francisco, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

A concert/cabaret and a reception for winners will end the festivities.

The first item on today's agenda is a breakfast for engineering school deans at the Harbor Court. Additional recruiting and career seminars will follow at the Convention Center.

In the afternoon, actors Ossie Davis, Malcolm-Jamal Warner of "The Cosby Show" and Anne Marie Johnson of the "Heat of the Night" television show will attend a private cocktail reception at the Harbor Court.

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