“Covid-19 brings an evolving marketing focus” by Dr Kevin Stenson – Marketing in the Time of Covid-19

                        Dr Kevin P Stenson

Our next Marketing in the time of COVID-19 series is called “Covid-19 brings an evolving marketing focus” and is written by Dr Kevin P Stenson PhD MBA, CEO of the Smallpeice Trust. Kevin tells us how Covid-19 has affected their business and changed their marketing and what they do. The Smallpeice Trust was founded in 1966 by Dr. Cosby D P Smallpeice — a brilliant engineer who invented the Smallpeice Lathe. The Smallpeice Trust aims to give young people the support they need to bring their big ideas to life through science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM). 


Covid-19 brings an evolving marketing focus

 Not only does the UK need two million more engineers by 2025, but we also have the lowest percentage of female energy and engineering professionals in Europe; 12.37 per cent, compared with countries such as Latvia, Bulgaria, and Cyprus who have nearly 30 per cent.

The most important thing to recognise is that the problem isn’t based on a lack of opportunities for women in energy and engineering; it is simply a case of female students not considering this as a potential career.

It was 50 years ago, that brilliant British engineer Dr Cosby Smallpeice ploughed £1.6m of his personal fortune into setting up The Smallpeice Trust, a charity to give young people, especially girls, the role models and experiences to fuel their passion for engineering.

Last year 40,000 students experienced the courses including Engineering Experience, Structural Engineering, Biomedical Engineering, Girls Development Days, and courses for our Arkwright Engineering Scholars; a scholarship to guide those students who are destined for a successful career in engineering, on the right path.

Most of these courses are run with our partner companies including Babcock International Group, BAE Systems, Jaguar Land Rover, National Grid, National Nuclear Laboratory, RAF, Leonardo, Siemens, Shell and Tomorrow’s Engineers.

Our partners are a crucial part of our success, offering the experiences, role models and funding to ensure the courses, travel and accommodation are heavily subsidised for most students or fully funded for those from lower income families.

As you can see our target audiences are therefore two-fold: schools and colleges to attract their students to the events and also organisations within the engineering, IT, energy and utilities sectors to provide the funding and experiences.

Pre-Covid-19 we communicated with schools across the UK via email campaigns, social media (Facebook, Twitter and YouTube) and regional events. We have also built partnerships with related education sector associations Most of our courses are fully booked so we feel we had the right level of marketing activity.

We also employ the services of a public relations agency to educate our audiences and raise awareness in both the schools’ media and that read by the corporate and engineering/STEM related industries.

Then came Covid-19 and schools across the UK closed.

Usually all our training and experience events are held face to face to give students a ‘real’ hands-on experience of the world of engineering. Our industry partners open their doors to students to ensure that girls in particularly learn that engineering is a lot more than oil and grease!

Sadly, these on-site events stopped with Covid-19.

To carry on raising awareness of the Trust and the importance of the work we do we continued to secure media coverage. One example was a report in the Lancashire Telegraph on Bacup and Rawtenstall Grammar School’s (BRGS) use of its 3D printing technology to produce 160 urgently needed headbands for face guards for the local hospital and doctors’ surgery. The 3D printers were purchased with the funding support given by the Trust to the schools’ students who graduated the Arkwright Engineering Scholarships.

We have worked hard over the past few weeks to carry on supporting schools and their students.

We joined forces with one of our partners, the RAF, to donate engineering-based ‘Think Kits’ to schools who have open to support vulnerable children and students of key workers, during the pandemic. We reached out to non-selective state schools that were staying open to support vulnerable students and the children of key workers to ask if they would like to receive one of the Think Kits. These packs include all the materials and tools necessary for groups of students to work in teams and build an electrically powered glider, supporting the development of their creativity and engineering skills.

We have also recently launched Engineering@Home, a programme of engineering projects with a new challenge launched each Wednesday via our website and social media, all free of charge. The challenges are all linked to the national curriculum and can be completed using everyday resources found at home. Engineering@School will be released shortly for students still in school and those returning in September.

We are also now able to promote four new online courses that historically would have been delivered face to face. One of these, is the three day ‘Structural Engineering’ course involves designing, creating, solving problems, innovating and using maths and science to ‘build’ theatres, sports stadia and hospitals, to bridges, oil rigs and space satellites.

It has been a challenge communicating with our partners and potential new partners as so many companies are still on lockdown and working remotely. Thankfully things are starting to ease and slowly people are moving back to the office.

Covid-19 aside, we were starting to see things change; there is an increase in the number of students, particularly girls pursuing a career in engineering.

We hope that despite these unprecedented times, our work will continue to strengthen engineering excellence in the UK and fulfil our vision of helping an increasing number of young people to acquire life, leadership and engineering skills.


Thank you to Kevin for writing this post it’s really interesting to see how you have approached the changing landscape, and it’s much appreciated. For more on the briliant work the Smallpeice Trust do visit their website here!

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