Putting a Face on Engineering

While the building and construction industry is well aware of engineers' invaluable work, unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the general public, according to recent polls."Clearly, engineers don't get credit for the magnificent things they do," explains Lee Herring, director of public affairs for the American Consulting Engineers Council, Washington, D.C.

11/01/2000


While the building and construction industry is well aware of engineers' invaluable work, unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the general public, according to recent polls.

"Clearly, engineers don't get credit for the magnificent things they do," explains Lee Herring, director of public affairs for the American Consulting Engineers Council, Washington, D.C. "It's not that engineers have a negative image, the problem is that they don't have an image."

To begin rectifying this dearth of engineering P.R., a nationwide public relations campaign-The American Engineering Campaign: The Future Begins With Engineering-is being launched this month. Headed up by the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE), Washington, D.C., the initiative has already enlisted the professional services of Edelman Public Relations Worldwide and the developmental support of the American Consulting Engineers Council, the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning Engineers and the National Academy of Engineering.

"The campaign is going to try to put a face on engineering," explains Cindy Kirschner, who serves as NSPE's public relations manager.

It is also a campaign goal to empower engineers to play a more active role in society, say organizers. "Engineers could be giving critical input at the beginning as opposed to being told to solve problems later on," Herring explains. "But engineers won't get to the policy decision-making tables unless they're respected more."

As part of the campaign strategy, NSPE plans to use its position as the 2001 vice-chair for National Engineer's Week in February to enhance a program called the Executive All-Star Team. Currently, the program has in place about 20 CEOs, institutional directors and government leaders nationwide, who are actively reaching out to their peers and associates to promote awareness of engineering. It is NSPE's goal to expand the program to all 50 states.

"We want to explain to the public and to policy makers what engineering is about and why it's important to the nation and to the economy," explains Lance Davis, executive officer of the National Academy of Engineering, Washington, D.C.

In addition, NSPE plans to create a new mentoring program where young engineers will be paired up with sixth- to tenth-grade students to encourage the exploration of engineering through activities such as field trips and engineering clubs.

"Having people appreciate and understand engineering will hopefully allow us to replenish the pool of engineers in this country," Davis adds.

Also incorporated into this P.R. initiative, according to the campaign's task force chairman Bob Sylar, P.E., of Gresham, Smith & Partners, Nashville, will be an effort to publicize different themes that communicate how engineering improves the quality of life and how engineers are among our nation's leaders. Part of the approach is to pitch the media with a variety of resources such as identifying unique and interesting stories about engineers and showcasing innovative projects, says Herring.

NSPE will also be furnishing state societies with a package of tools that will allow them to replicate the campaign on a local level, according to Kirschner.

For more information, visit the campaign's website atwww.americanengineeringcampaign.org





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