Do engineers need a new image?

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11th June 2013
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19th September 2013

Do engineers need a new image?

Launched by the Sainsbury Management Fellowship (SMF), the whimsical ‘Hard Hat Index’ charts the number of times the media features engineers wearing hard hats.

Launched by the Sainsbury Management Fellowship (SMF), the whimsical ‘Hard Hat Index’ charts the number of times the media features engineers wearing hard hats.

Based on 12 months monitoring of carefully selected engineering media, as well as 18 months monitoring of the national broadsheets, SMF say that they found “185 depictions of engineers wearing hard hats featured in 16 engineering titles (118 adverts and 67 editorials),” while “940 hard hat images (88 adverts and 682 editorials)” featured in nine national newspapers.

Even The Engineer is culpable; you’ll find hard hats galore in just about any edition.

Pictures of engineers wearing hard hats, safety glasses, etc. are now the norm when depicting virtually any level of work within an industrial environment. To add to this image problem, the term engineer is often misused by the media, such as the BBC’s Watchdog referring to unreliable builders as engineers, or British Gas granting the title of engineer to their appliance installers.

The problem is: could this portrayal of engineers have anything to do with another finding? Britain produces only 46,000 engineering graduates each year, even though 1.86 million engineering positions will need to be filled by 2020.

As SMF themselves point out, “The hard hat has become symbolic of engineers and SMF believes that this association is an example of how images detrimental to the perception of the role of engineers have far-reaching effects. This includes the ability to inspire, recruit and retain engineering graduates within the profession.”

A SMF YouGov poll of over 2,000 people came up with a few percentages that backed up this depressing statement; 63% believe the hard hat is worn by engineers on an average working day, with only 40% believing engineering can take place in an office.

On a happier note, engineers came sixth (49% of votes) in a league table of 11 professions that are particularly well respected in society.

Perhaps, then, we do have something to build on to readdress the poor image that engineers suffer.

SMF President David Falzani made a rallying call to all engineers: “The industry is being ineffective in how it portrays itself. It is our responsibility to communicate the opportunities better – we need to excite people about the diversity of engineering careers, so they can see the scope of responsibility, the opportunity to improve mankind’s condition, grow the economy and earn a good salary.”

So, what do you think? Any ideas?

Here at Hansford, we might not be at the more glamorous end of engineering. But then again, without our vibration monitoring equipment, just how many of those high-end engineering projects would run smoothly?

Every stage of the process is important, not least what we do.

And there’s not a hard hat in sight in our office.


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