Currently only 6% of professional engineers in the UK are from black and minority ethnic (BME) backgrounds. London South Bank University (LSBU) is addressing the imbalance that 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, LSBU’s Dean of School of Engineering, said: “There is lower representation of BME in engineering professions which can be attributed to a wide range of socio-economic factors, such as a lack of role models and professional advice at critical junctures in engineering career progression.”
Data published by the Equality Challenge Unit (ECU) shows that 91.7% of UK academics are white, compared with 86% of the population measured in the 2011 census. Last year 47% 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 Senior Lecturer in the Division of Computer Science and Academic Lead for Employability in the School of Engineering at LSBU, strongly believes in LSBU’s focus on widening participation opportunities to those who have faced adversity: “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, “I had the opportunity to network with like-minded students from an engineering background, which I probably wouldn’t have met if it weren't for this event. I also got advice from professionals that worked in the engineering field, which was really useful for me as a recent graduate“.
“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.
Adapted from press release by Rosalie Starling
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