Academy steps up programme to address diversity in early career engineering

Published:  27 June, 2018

The Royal Academy of Engineering is launching a new Graduate Engineering Engagement Programme  to enable more ethnic minority, female and socioeconomically disadvantaged engineering students to move successfully into engineering jobs - with a focus on those from the newer post-92 universities.

The State of Engineering 2018 report from EngineeringUK found that 12% of the UK working age population are from Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds, but only 8% of professional engineers are, despite the fact that 27% of engineering graduates in 2016 come from ethnic minority backgrounds. According to Academy research on employment outcomes of engineering graduates, ethnic minority graduates are more than twice as likely to be unemployed six months post-graduation than their white counterparts of similar age and gender with similar study and degree classification.

The Graduate Engineering Engagement Programme will work to address these and other disparities by connecting engineering graduates, undergraduates and businesses, and by working to minimise barriers that have a negative impact on the transition of underrepresented groups into engineering employment.

The Academy-led programme is based on a three-year pilot that engaged more than 450 engineering students. The pilot was actively supported by a collaboration of 14 engineering businesses and delivered in partnership with Sponsors for Educational Opportunity (SEO) London – an organisation with an eighteen-year track record of preparing talented students from ethnic minority or low socioeconomic backgrounds for career success. Early indications from the pilot are encouraging, with 15 placements, 38 internships and 38 graduate roles secured. Full results will be available once all students have graduated in the years to come.

Organisations participating in the pilot phase of the programme valued the access it gave them to a pre-filtered talent pool of female and BAME engineering students from post-92 universities and the opportunity to work with other organisations to address shared strategic concerns regarding diversity, inclusion and the engineering skills gap. Recommendations from the pilot evaluation include more transparency of recruitment practice, better tracking of recruitment data to help understand the impact of outreach of this kind, and more active encouragement and networking between employers and students to support changing perceptions and behaviour on both sides.

To coincide with the launch of this programme, the Diversity and Inclusion Leadership Group - the Academy’s network of engineering employers working on these challenges - has released an inclusive recruitment practice toolkit freely available for use across the engineering profession and beyond.

Bola Fatimilehin, head of diversity and inclusion, Royal Academy of Engineering, said; “Working with so many enthusiastic engineering employers to design and deliver a three-year pilot to increase the transition of ethnic monitory, female and socioeconomically disadvantaged students into the profession has been fantastic. Now that the Graduate Engineering Engagement Programme is a permanent feature of Academy work, even more employers are coming on board. Together we will make engineering the career destination of choice for all engineering graduates and at the same time increase diversity and inclusion across the profession.”

John McCollum, engineering director, BAE Systems, which participated in the pilot programme, said; “The programme has given us direct access to a wider, more diverse, range of engineering students, including those who may not have immediately thought of a career with BAE Systems.”

Coral Taylor, inclusion business partner, Amey, which also participated in the pilot programme, said; “The engineering skills shortages in the UK are too big for any one organisation to tackle alone. Achieving results to scale requires us to move from individual initiatives to cross-sector working to deliver truly industry transforming interventions.

“The greatest strength of this programme is that it is bringing together engineering employers and organisations from right across the spectrum; from small employers with a handful of people, to those with an extensive global reach. It is breaking down the silos of personal interest and forcing us to realise that when working together, we all benefit more. We will continue to support the Royal Academy with this important work, and look forward to more businesses joining us.”

Photo: Students meeting with businesses during the pilot phase in July 2015

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