Energetic marketing effort pays off

Phil Castle, The Business Times

How can companies convince college graduates with degrees in engineering, accounting and other professional fields to consider careers in the energy industry?

One recruiting tool could be a reality television show that offers both an educational and entertaining look at the variety of jobs in the industry while appealing to a younger audience still making decisions about occupational aspirations.

At least that’s idea of a team of five Colorado Mesa State University students selected as a finalist in a national marketing competition.

Timothy Lynn, Brittany Moon, Michael Morrissey, Robert Sutton and Michael Mankoff, all seniors at CMU, are scheduled to pitch their presentation to executives from the American Petroleum Institute on May 10 in San Francisco. CMU will go against teams from Northwood University and the University of Texas Arlington.

EdVenture Partners, a California-based organization that promotes partnerships between education and industry, coordinates the national case study competition.

In the latest case study, students were challenged to develop integrated marketing plans for recruiting recent college graduates of scientific and professional programs for careers in the energy industry.

At CMU, Tim Hatten enlists students in his advanced marketing course to join in a competition that’s also become something of a tradition. Previous CMU teams have finished among the top 10 teams nationwide and in 2003 placed third.

In 2005, CMU bested a field of 37 other teams to win a national competition to develop a marketing plan for Cadillac.

The goal each year, Hatten said, is not only to win, but in the process create an environment in which marketing students perform like marketing professionals. “I try to make it as real world as humanely possible, and it pays off.”

Students conduct research, develop recommendations based on their findings and then condense their work into a concise presentation. Students pitch their presentations in a boardroom as if they were working for actual clients.

Hatten said the winning team in his course that went on to become a finalist in the latest case study discovered that young people begin making decisions about careers as early as age 13 and the process can continue for another 10 years or so.

To capture the attention of a younger audience, the team developed the concept of a reality television show depicting various jobs for professionals in the energy industry. The show could be similar to “Celebrity Apprentice,” which pits celebrities performing various tasks as they’re evaluated by mogul Donald Trump.

The CMU students have an advantage, Hatten said, in that the university offers degree programs that prepare students to work in the energy industry. That includes a landman and energy management program that combines coursework in geology and environmental sciences with business administration.

Regardless of the outcome, Hatten said the case study competition offers an important learning experience for students who soon will graduate and start careers themselves.

“I love everything about these competitions. They really bring out the best in giving us a chance to go head-to-head with better-known universities on a level field,” Hatten said. “There are no big-school, small-school divisions, so everyone rolls out their best to see if it’s good enough.”