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New project seeks to improve diversity in STEM

11 January 2023

The University of Bath and the Royal Academy of Engineering have teamed up to give extra support and training to engineering students from diverse backgrounds.

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 £99,900 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 the 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 percent of women and 55 percent of BAME people leave engineering professions within 10 years, compared to 39 percent of white men, with the most departures happening at the entry stage. 

Among engineers employed six months after graduation in the UK, 36 percent of BAME (vs 27 percent of white) and 34 percent of women (vs 28 percent 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 percent of start-up founders are male, less than one percent are BAME, and 87 percent 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 fourth-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.

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