• Hard Hats Give Engineers a Bad Image

    Following-like-sheep counting hard hats May 2013
    Sainsbury Management Fellows has launched its 2015 Hard Hat Index which shows that the engineering sector is still firmly wedded to using hard hat images to promote engineers and engineering jobs. SMF believes that the association with hard hats conjures up the wrong image and this misleading image is one of the key factors preventing young people from choosing engineering careers and parents discouraging engineering as a career choice. This contributes to the huge shortfall of engineers in the UK.

    The 2015 SMF Hard Hat Index recorded a total of 257 hard hat images depicting engineering in advertising and editorials in selected engineering publications. Compared to 2013, this is a 39% increase in the total number of hard hat images used to promote engineering.

    Sainsbury Management Fellows 2015 Hard Hat Index Trade Media Monitoring ChartsHowever, there are tentative signs of a breakthrough on the advertising front. There were 107 such images in adverts compared to 150 in articles. But things are not looking promising on the editorial front. Comparing the 2013 report to the latest Index, there has been a staggering 123% increase in the use of hard hats in editorial, compared with a 9.32% decrease in adverts. The latter may be an indication that companies are starting to use more inspiring and thought-provoking images in their advertising campaigns.

    A YouGov survey conducted for SMF when it launched the Hard Hat Service back in 2012 revealed that just 19% of people polled think of engineers having exciting careers and only 36% see them as people who change our lives, even though they are the heart of innovation across all industries.

    Although the SMF Hard Hat Index is a whimsical study akin to the Economist’s Big Max Index, it allows SMF to raise awareness of the problem of the visual representation of engineers is the media.

    SMF President David Falzani said, “Engineers change every aspect of our lives, from medicine to social media. Yet, the hard hat has become synonymous with engineering jobs, limiting the perception of our diverse profession. This has a real impact on young people choosing not to go into engineering and employers’ ability to recruit engineering graduates who don’t relate to hard hat jobs.

    The Hard Hat Index helps to stimulate discussion and we have seen a higher profile debate on the engineering brand in the media. Recently Professor Dame Ann Dowling,  President, Royal Academy of Engineering, stated in a BBC Radio 4 interview that when you Google the word engineer, many hard hat images appear and we need a change.”

    We will continue to highlight the unhelpfulness of using hard hats to brand engineers to continue to raise awareness of the problem and hopefully change. The fall in the use of hard hats in adverts is a start but we have a long way to go.”


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