Research highlights imbalance of BME engineering professionals
03 August 2016
Currently only 6 per cent of professional engineers in the UK are from Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) backgrounds. London South Bank University (LSBU) is addressing the imbalance which suggests that although BME engineering graduates are getting better academic outcomes, they are finding it increasingly harder to secure employment within the engineering sector after graduating.
Professor David Mba, Dean of the School of Engineering at LSBU, said: “There is lower representation of BME in engineering professions. It is imperative that we not only provide high quality education in engineering but also support all our students with advice and guidance in their career progression to help them with finding graduate employment."
Data published by the Equality Challenge Unit (ECU) shows that 91.7 per cent of UK academics are white, compared with 86 per cent of the population measured in the 2011 census. Last year 47 per cent of students who applied for studies in the School of Engineering were BME, LSBU is proactively engaging with these students to enhance employment opportunities across the entire engineering course profile.
Dr Safia Barikzai, a former refugee from Afghanistan, is now a Senior Lecturer in the Division of Computer Science and Informatics and Academic Lead for Employability in the School of Engineering at LSBU. Dr Barikzai strongly believes in LSBU’s focus on widening participation opportunities to those who have faced adversity, she said:
“We have delivered discipline specific employability programmes that consist of bespoke workshops, enterprise competitions and alumni networking. These are all designed to improve professional skills, increase confidence and enhance engineering students’ social capital.”
LSBU recently collaborated with AFBE-UK, the Association for Black Engineers, for a two-day Diversity in Engineering event, attended by 20 professional engineers and 40 LSBU students. The aim was to bridge the gap between industry and academia in a way that shapes the expectations of graduates in preparation for joining the workforce. It involved one-to-one interviews with students and professionals, an enterprise competition and talks given from the expert panel of engineers from BME backgrounds.
Anab Hussen, Business IT graduate in the Division of Computer Science and Informatics, said, "This event gave me the opportunity to network with like-minded students from engineering backgrounds. I was also given really useful advice from professionals that worked in the field."
“Working collaboratively with AFBE-UK, LSBU are able to truly make a difference to engineering students who come to us from diverse backgrounds and can continue to improve access to graduate engineering opportunities for our students,” said Dr Barikzai.