Barbara Orwig is co-founder and president of Career Communications, Inc., and publisher of American Careers career awareness publications. Since 1989, her company has published educational programs that profile career professionals in their workplaces and relate their careers to school curriculum topics.
Can you give us some background on Career Communications?
Career Communications was founded in 1989. We began by producing a program for high school students. From there we developed one for middle school. The high school program was to bring the world of work into the classroom, to provide career options to students and show them the kind of education and training it was going to take to get jobs. We developed tools like interest inventories and portfolios. From there we discovered that we needed to reach children at a younger age, and developed programs for elementary students as well as for parents.
What led you to start this company?
My education was good, but nobody ever shared with me or taught me how to apply the various subject areas we had to take. For example, we had to take algebra – what do you do with it, how do you use it? No one told me, other than common sense, why I had to take four years of English, Science. If you’re not going into a field that requires science, what do you do with it? How do you use it for everyday things?
We just felt there were a lot of kids out there who weren’t relating to work, weren’t relating to what they had to learn in school. We were losing kids, watching test scores drop. We were watching kids who were becoming restless in school. We were seeing more and more behavior problems because we weren’t engaging them in the subject matter.
We saw a need to publicize the careers that could be related to the subjects being taught, so more students knew about these areas and these avenues – these career paths, if you will. Then they could make better decisions. It started out as an information effort, which soon became an integrated curriculum.
What is your approach to creating your programs?
All of our materials are built around the career paths. You can take every occupation in the country and fit it into a career path. For example, take communications – within that career path there are thousands of different jobs.
We take the classroom curriculum and show students how it fits into these career paths. That puts their education into a framework that they can identify with. And at the same time we help them develop the skills they will need to use: communication, working with others, problem-solving approaches, and so on.
If we provide students with a better understanding of how they apply the subject areas they have to learn to the real world, then they are going to be much more successful individuals. And school makes more sense to them.
How important is technology education in preparing students for the world of work?
If you take a look, for example, back in the 1800’s, we were an agricultural society. In the early 1900’s we became a largely industrial society. Then the service industries developed. From there we have been evolving into a society which is based on information technology. And now we’re about to enter an era where the life sciences will again be a major industry–biotechnology, genetics, etc.
Some fields require more technology than other fields. But in every transition from one era to the next, the role of technology in the workplace has become more prominent.
And you believe it is the job of our schools to give students the technology skills they will need in life?
The bottom line is we go to school to learn in order to prepare ourselves to go to work. Sometimes I think we forget that.