Could soap clean up engineering’s image problem?

Why not have an engineer in Brookside? The latest twist in the engineering image campaign looks eminently sensible. As well as buying TV advertising, the profession is now considering how to influence some of the most influential writers in the entertainment business in a bid to get engineering into the soaps. Few such professional types […]

Why not have an engineer in Brookside? The latest twist in the engineering image campaign looks eminently sensible. As well as buying TV advertising, the profession is now considering how to influence some of the most influential writers in the entertainment business in a bid to get engineering into the soaps.

Few such professional types make regular appearances on soaps. This is probably because from a dramatic standpoint, you get better value if your cast members are in or nearby the street, square or close for most of the day, rather than out at work. Characters would also need to have an exciting and telegenic day job to take some of the action to their place of work. Brookside probably has the highest number of white-collar professionals among its characters but there is a high risk that they will get embroiled in murder or mayhem, thus bringing down the reputation of their professional colleagues.

The television drama series may be another suitable medium. How about a This Life for engineers, set in a mixed house share of young, sexy engineers from, say, GEC-Marconi in Chelmsford?

Some broadcasters believe these kinds of series do have an impact on a profession’s image. The Troubleshooters in the 1970s made the offshore oil industry charismatic, and applications for offshore jobs doubled by the time the series ended.

Engineering would be lucky to find itself with a similar drama series. Perhaps the best we can hope for with the current campaign will be TV scripts that give engineers a fair deal: credit where it’s due, rather than applauding scientists or technologists. And no credit, thanks, where it’s not due, when it comes to visits from washing machine engineers or cowboys with oily rags.