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STEM marketing campaigns: a strategy to help bridge skills gaps

How can you continuously inspire future talent for your industry? One answer lies in engaging youths’ interest through hands-on STEM outreach projects.  Such campaigns not only help to fill the increasing shortages but enhance the brand reputation of all involved.

In an era of rapid technological advancement, budding engineers and scientists are now needed in automotive, construction, aerospace and defence, and many other sectors.

However, with a shortage of new STEM recruits coming through the education system, and nearly a fifth of all engineers due to retire over the next five years, finding workers to fill the shortfall is becoming increasingly difficult  – impacting individual business and the wider UK economy to the tune of as much as £1.5 billion a year. Against this daunting backdrop, you can help sow the seeds of success in developing future generations of employees to these industries, by reaching out to them at an early age. The challenge is to practically demonstrate the enjoyment and rewards open to them through a career in STEM – and to keep them enthused throughout their school journey.

Combined with great PR, these activities will help demonstrate your credentials to the wider industry and make you an employer-of-choice in this competitive recruitment market. 

Case study: MARSBalloon

The MARSBalloon project is a great example of outreach work that’s helping to feed the talent pipeline. This ongoing initiative was first launched in 2014 and is led by global space technology manufacturer Thales Alenia Space.

Space engineering is a thriving sector in the UK, but one which is facing a shortage of new engineers as it grows. Thales Alenia Space uses MARSBalloon to bring real-world science into the classroom, spark children’s curiosity and encourage them to continue studying STEM subjects. It gives them first-hand experience of designing experiments and introduces them to career possibilities in the UK space industry, as well as other high-tech sectors.

Learning through experimentation

The children are asked to think about what materials, equipment and technologies will be needed by the population of a future base on Mars. They then design experiments to test how those things will cope with the Martian environment. These are packed into small egg-shaped capsules, which are carried by a high-altitude balloon to a height of 30km - that’s above 99% of the Earth’s atmosphere.

Here, the capsules experience conditions very similar to those on the surface of Mars, including temperatures of -50⁰C, pressure a hundredth of that on Earth and increased exposure to radiation. After reaching its maximum altitude, the balloon bursts and the tray of experiments parachutes back down to Earth. The MARSBalloon team recovers it and returns the capsules to schools to complete their analysis.

Tests devised by children have included, for example:

  • How well battery-powered lights and other electronics will work
  • Whether bubble-wrap will still protect instruments in reduced pressure
  • What effects the conditions will have on different materials, foods and plants.

Participating groups receive a pack including information on exploring Mars, guidance on designing experiments and advice on careers. There is no cost to them, except for the materials they choose to test and postage. In 2023 alone, which saw MARSBalloon’s tenth launch, more than 200 experiments from 84 schools were included in the mission.

Project promotion

Clear B2B was brought onboard to raise the project’s profile and generate more applications from schools and youth clubs. Key publicity opportunities included:

  • Media campaigns with regional titles, to call for schools and groups to register.
  • Organising space-science workshops at primary schools in selected locations, with invitations to key media titles, alongside a film crew.
  • Production of workshop and balloon launch videos.
  • Media releases and film announcing the winners.

In each case, information pictures and videos were used in press releases, posts on Thales UK and Thales Alenia Space social media channels, and in articles on the Thales website.

Continuing personal development

MARSBalloon is just one project that Thales Alenia Space uses to nurture scientific and engineering talent. You can reach out to young minds with similar activities and follow up with initiatives aimed at older groups. The teaching and communications developed by your in-house trainers and recruiters can be of great value in delivering outreach projects. Educational establishments and organisations are always keen to collaborate with businesses.

For older students, interactive workshops with a mixture of entertaining and informative activities, could be a way to give a taste of life in your company and industry. Similarly, work experience weeks and internships can be practical and stimulating, to persuade potential future employees to join your apprenticeship or graduate programmes.

The importance of marketing and PR

For maximum impact from any outreach campaign, you should consider the marketing and PR potential. You can raise the profile of your project, expand its reach, and increase the number of participants.

Your initiative should benefit from creative input in areas such as strategic branding, storytelling, optimised use of digital platforms and expert outreach to the media.

In addition to helping to address short-term and long-term skills gaps, effective campaigns reflect well on your company and boost its public image. Your brand can become more prominent in your business sector and gain recognition of your contribution to supporting education, youth development, innovation and economic sustainability. This will cement a good reputation as an employer of choice for potential future recruits with strong positive values that they can associate themselves with professionally.

Invest in the future

By adopting a holistic approach to talent development, you can cultivate a resilient workforce while gaining added value and prestige for your company. Aligning business objectives with educational initiatives, in the ways we have described, is beneficial not only to you but to society, and to achieving global economic growth through your critical industry.

To gain the maximum exposure for your project/program, a well thought-out marketing and PR plan is essential.

Are you looking for support with your PR and Marketing? Contact Rachel Arquati for more information on how Clear’s team of experts can help you achieve your business goals.

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