Our Tomorrow’s Extraordinary campaign centers around creating a world where technology allows people to do extraordinary things, rather than wasting their time doing admin. A critical component to that is the need for a large and highly skilled, inspired and empowered workforce. Education is the foundation to this and an area which we believe needs work in the UK.
This afternoon I spoke at The Manufacturer’s annual Leaders Conference. It the UK’s premier conference for manufacturing directors. You may remember, this is the first event I ever spoke at, two years ago, so of course I was delighted to accept their invitation. As usual, I was speaking on the topic of promoting careers in Engineering to young people. However, this year I took a slightly more direct approach and suggested the need for a “Brand Engineering” and what this might be and how it could be done.
The talk was based around a model for the ideal brand, as developed by Thomas Gad, the marketing guru behind the original launch of Nokia telecoms and the Virgin Brand diversification, now also serving on the board of Gas-Sense as our Branding Director.
The first aspect of this brand model I think is important is Brand Positioning – where does your brand fit in context, you ideally want to build your brand around your Unique Selling Points. So it is essential to be mindful of your context. For engineering careers, we are competing with Law, Finance and Medicine, for the bulk of technically minded university and school leavers. As such, we should be aware of the benefits engineering careers pose over those professions. This is also interesting to overlay this with some generational profiling theory. This says that the Post-Millennials (born after the mid-1990s) who are now choosing their careers have a very different set of values to other generations. A few key ones that I will touch on are their desire for work-life balance and holistic existences, they have grown up around technology and take it for granted and they are desensitised to advertising as they have grown up with it. A desire for work-life balance is great for engineering, as this is something that Finance, Law and in many cases Medicine certainly doesn’t offer. Looking at current affairs, Junior Doctors are overworked, underpaid and generally abused, to the point the British Medical Association is threatening strike action. The financial crisis has painted careers in Banking in a less credible light. Now is a good time for engineering to capitalise on the generational shifts and changing public views of competing professions. Young people are also interested in creating real value, working on things which make a difference and do good. Again, another area where engineering can excel.
So my suggestion for 3 points which communicate the most attractive features of engineering to young people are:
Flexible ways to work, allowing for varied and satisfying work, without the need to be stuck behind a desk every day of your working life.
Opportunity to work on projects which make a genuine difference to the advancement of humanity.
Valuable skills provide opportunities to travel, work in a wide range of different industries and inherent security.
The next aspect of our branding framework are brand Touch Points – these are every opportunity that a brand has to interact with its audience. As mentioned above, young people are anaesthetised to advertising, so to get the point across compellingly, there needs to be a reinforced coherent message reliably communicated across a range of channels. These can be direct and indirect. So for a young people, there will be indirect touch points, such as teachers and parents. They are obviously not something that we can control, but should certainly endeavour to influence. The direct touch points which engineering can control tend to be work experience, interviews in the media, adverts, careers talks, careers fairs site visits etc. There are 3 other touch points I would like to make specific comment on:
Technology – Young people interact with “Technology” every day and are in many cases very engaged with it. However, the link between this and engineering has been lost. If we can regain this back, then it would be an exceptional touch point for engineering.
Popular Culture – Take Medicine as an example, young people experience hospitals and GPs first hand. The television schedule is filled with documentaries showing the human side of working in a hospital, 24 Hours in A&E and One Born Every Minute for example. There are then numerous prime time dramas, Sitcoms and Soap Operas, all acting to make working in medicine more visible, think Holby City and Green Wing.
Academia – medical careers are referenced many times in Biology, whereas engineering is barely touched on in Physics and the government is looking to stop offering engineering as a GCSE option.
We need to ensure that every student who is involved in any of these touch points, get the same unified “on point” message about brand engineering. This mustn’t be lost in other confused messages such as the diversity agenda.