Engineering students from diverse backgrounds to get new enterprise training

Supporting under-represented groups in engineering
Supporting under-represented groups in engineering

University of Bath and Royal Academy of project aims to help students and improve diversity in STEM industries

University of Bath engineering students from minority backgrounds are set to be offered additional training in enterprise and starting their own businesses through an innovative new project, following a £100,000 funding award from the Royal Academy of Engineering.

The new Building Unconventional Engineering Careers: Creating Your Unique Fit pilot project will equip the next generation of the University’s engineering graduates with entrepreneurial skills and personal attributes to help them successfully navigate the professional contexts currently dominated by those from more privileged social and economic backgrounds.

The Royal Academy of Engineering (RAEng) has awarded the project a total of £100,000 through its competitive Engineering Diversity Impact scheme. This will allow Faculty staff to set up the training and support programme, which will run from March 2023 to September 2024, to provide alternative career pathways to minority engineering graduates marginalised by existing practice, reducing engineering career deflection at entry stage.

Dr Despina Moschou, the Faculty’s equality, diversity and inclusion champion, said: -We are delighted to be able to offer this additional training programme, thanks to this new financial support from the Royal Academy of Engineering.

-There is a clear need to help keep people from groups that are under-represented in engineering industries from dropping out, due to lack of opportunity or structural barriers - particularly women, BAME people, and people from underprivileged economic backgrounds. Our new programme will go some way to addressing the imbalance and help participants start their careers more confidently.-

Research shows a staggering 70% of women and 55% of BAME people leave engineering professions within 10 years, compared to 39% of white males, with the most departures happening at entry stage. Among engineers employed six months after graduation in the UK, 36% of BAME (vs 27% of white) and 34% of women (vs 28% of male) were in non-engineering roles.

Dr Moschou adds: -Good intentions are simply not enough, with most actions focusing on diversity corporate policies and beneficiary empowerment representing a missing link.

-While the entrepreneurship pathway provides an inspiring alternative route for career entrants, diversity data for start-up companies paints a grim picture: 84% of start-up founders are male, less than 1% are BAME, and 87% of investment is provided to male only founded start-ups. In view of these statistics, it is evident why people in minority groups choose to leave the profession rather than embarking on a high risk, but potentially life-changing, venture.-

New skills

The activities included within the programme will provide up to 60 4th year students with co-creation involvement, mentoring, personal development skills, confidence building and work readiness skills. Students involved will conclude the programme with a showcase event, where they will be able to pitch their ideas to investors.

In addition to this, following the pilot, the team will compile a policy report to share learnings with other higher education institutions and professional bodies including the Engineering Council, Engineering Professors Council, JBM, ICE, IStructE, IMechE, IChemE and the RAEng.

Launched in October 2021, the Royal Academy of Engineering Diversity Impact Programme aims to inspire change in university engineering departments so that all students succeed, enabling the unique perspectives and experiences of engineers from diverse backgrounds to enhance the profession.

Dr Hayaatun Sillem CBE, Chief Executive of the Royal Academy of Engineering, said: -Engineering and technology shape the world around us and play a critical role in addressing some of the greatest global challenges of our age. It is therefore vital that the engineering profession is reflective of the society it seeks to serve."

The project team included the Dean of the Faculty of Engineering & Design , Tim Ibell, Vice-President (Community & Inclusion), Rajani Naidoo, Deputy Dean Prof Davide Mattia, the Associate Dean for Education Prof Marion Harney, the associate Dean for Research Prof Chris Bowen, Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Officer Aiste Zubiniene, the Faculty Director of Administration Loretta Gibson, the Faculty Operations and Projects Manager, Sarah Stead, and representatives of key stakeholder groups Sanjae King from the Black Engineering Student Society and Leen Jabban from the Women in Engineering Society.

They were supported by Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research Prof Sarah Hainsworth, past President of the Women’s Engineering Society Dawn Bonfield MBE, and Innovation Director of the SETSquared Partnership Simon Bond.