Editorial: This is engineering…

Author : Mark Gradwell, Consultant Editor

28 September 2018

Mark Gradwell, Consultant Editor of EPDT

Welcome to your October 2018 issue of EPDT! In case you hadn’t noticed, 2018 is the Year of Engineering: a high-profile, year-long Government-led campaign, supported by a large array of commercial and institutional industry partners…

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The YoE has produced some good initiatives, and I think it has been successful in its objective of celebrating the world and wonder of engineering – and ultimately raising awareness of engineering as a career path. Most of us who care about STEM would probably agree that engineering has long had an image problem – but the YoE, along with other supporting and similarly aligned campaigns, is helping to address that too…

Recent news from the Sainsbury Management Fellows appears to support this image improvement. The MBA scholarship scheme of the Engineers in Business Fellowship, SMF was established by David Sainsbury (now Lord Sainsbury) in the 1980s to develop UK engineers to be leaders in industry.

Sainsbury set up SMF because he felt that there should be more leaders in the boardrooms of British industry who have both knowledge of how things are made and effective management skills – noting that many overseas companies, particularly those in Japan and Germany, were succeeding because their senior executives and boards included qualified engineers.

Over the last six years, SMF has attempted to measure and track the image of engineers in the media, with its Hard Hat Index – which records instances of images of engineers used in editorial content and advertisements in engineering media. The 2018 Hard Hat Index reports a 13% drop in the use of hard hats in the engineering media, compared to the 2017 Index. The biggest fall has come from advertisements, with a 31% decline in the publication of hard hat images.

David Falzani MBE, president of Sainsbury Management Fellows, noted the efforts of campaigns to address the stereotyped image of engineers in hard hats, saying: “Many engineering publications have run articles about… endeavours to re-brand the image of engineering to attract much-needed talent into our profession.

“The campaign eliminates stereotypical images and instead uses thought-provoking images and messages, with the aim of stimulating greater interest in diverse engineering careers. It will be a huge achievement if these messages penetrate corporate advertising and editorial and result in even fewer hard hat images being published next year.”

Dr Hayaatun Sillem, CEO of the Royal Academy of Engineering has also been vocal on this topic: “The classic shorthand image of an engineer as someone in a hard hat perpetuates a narrow view of what is, in fact, a very varied profession. If we are going to address the persistent skills and diversity shortfall in the profession, it is really important that we show what engineers really look like – and while some engineers necessarily wear hard hats, many do not.

“We want people to know about the exciting variety of opportunities that exist within the field of engineering, and encourage young people from all backgrounds to explore the different options that are available. That is why we are running a campaign to reach teenagers called ‘This is Engineering’,  which paints a very broad picture of engineering to challenge students’ perceptions of what an engineer is and does.”

Along with the IET’s excellent recent #SmashStereotypesToBits video for International Women in Engineering Day (see www.theiet.org/smashstereotypestobits), I strongly encourage you to check out the #ThisIsEngineering videos and resources at thisisengineering.org.uk: it tells the story of real engineers in many different and varied industries and applications, helping show and explain what engineering is – and what engineers do!


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