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LSBU celebrates diversity in engineering

LSBU collaborates with the Association for BME Engineers (AFBE-UK) on employability programme to celebrate diversity in engineering
12 July 2016

The two day  Diversity in Engineering event took place in June and focused on diversity and equality in engineering for people from Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) backgrounds.

The event was hugely popular with those currently studying or considering studying engineering courses and also attracted students from other backgrounds.

The first day of the programme concentrated on confidence building and creating support networks. More than 20 professional engineers attended on the day, who conducted one-to-one interviews with students and offered valuable feedback about the industry.

One student said: “It was great to meet someone from my own background, we have now connected via LinkedIn and they are happy to support me.”

The second day started with an enterprise competition, in association with the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE), which required  students to think about  innovative solutions to solve the ‘smart cars dumb highways’ problem.

In all, the primary aim of the programme was to bridge the gap between industry and academia in a way that shapes the expectations of graduates with little or no prior project experience.

The event was open to all engineering discipline students including; Computing, Civil, Electrical, Chemical, Mechanical and others.  Around 40 engineering students from LSBU attended the events, as well as attendees from University of East London, University College London, Greenwich University, and University of Westminster.

Research suggests that, although BME engineering graduates are getting better academic outcomes, they are finding it increasingly harder secure employment within the engineering sector after graduating.

Currently, only 6 per cent of professional engineers in the UK are BME. This is surprising, as research suggests that, by including women and BME in the workforce, the overall financial performance of an organisation is enhanced.

The School of Engineering has proactively engaged to enhance employment opportunities for students across the engineering profile of courses.

Dr Safia Barikzai, a former refugee from Afghanistan, is a Senior Lecturer in the Division of Computer Science and Informatics at London South Bank University and she also helped to organise the events. Dr Barikzai strongly believes in LSBU’s ethos of widening participation and giving educational opportunities to those who have faced adversity, she said:

“We have delivered discipline specific employability programmes consisting of bespoke workshops, enterprise competitions and alumni networking. These interventions were designed to improve professional skills, increase confidence and enhance engineering students’ social capital.”

Dr Barikzai works closely with the LSBU’s Entrepreneurship and Innovation Institute to provide work experience opportunities for engineering students and is actively engaged in making connections with industry to allow students to network with employers before they graduate, she went on to say:

“Working collaboratively with AFBE-UK, we were able to truly make a difference to engineering students who come to us from diverse backgrounds and we will continue to work together to improve access to graduate engineering opportunities for our students.

“Thanks to our extensive links with industry, we provide ample opportunities for students to benefit from guest lectures, participate in field trips and secure industrial internships. Our Employability and Enterprise focused events are designed to connect our students, alumni and industry.”

Professor David Mba, LSBU’s Dean of School of Engineering, 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."

Professor Mba was very keen to address this imbalance by capitalising on LSBU’s extensive network of professional engineers such that engineering students at LSBU had a bright future ahead of them. To this end, the School of Engineering, in collaboration with AFBE-UK, jointly organised the two day event.

This two day event concluded with engineering expert panel talks given by prominent BME engineers, including LSBU alumni. Students were able to mingle with the professionals over light refreshments and drinks reception held in the Student Union Bar. This networking opportunity was seen as very valuable by our students as they welcomed more opportunities to engage with professionals.

Dr Nike Folayan, Chartered Electronics Engineer and Chair of AFBE-UK, said:

“Our aim was to demystify the engineering industry for BME engineering students with interactive workshops and practical lessons on what is required to be employed and to work in the sector engineering. We wanted to offer professional advice of what is required for students to make the leap from student to engineer.”

For more information about the School of Engineering please visit the website.