Motorsport programme drives diversity home to Edinburgh pupils

Wester Hailes High School pupils visiting Knockhill Racing Circuit.

DIVERSITY and inclusion organisation AFBE-UK Scotland has collaborated with Mission 44, a charity launched by Sir Lewis Hamilton, to deliver a transformational school programme in Edinburgh.

The 10-week motorsport-themed project was funded by Mission 44 for pupils from Wester Hailes High School.

AFBE-UK Scotland supports all young people, particularly those from black and minority ethnic (BME) backgrounds, with career aspirations in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

Mission 44 is working to build a fairer, more inclusive future for young people around the world. The charity invests in solutions that empower young people to overcome social justice and succeed. It has a particular focus on developing an inclusion education system, creating employment opportunities in STEM and motorsport, and empowering young people to shape the world they live in.

The NextGen programme involved 34 high potential pupils, aged 14, hailing from diverse, disadvantaged backgrounds, facing social injustice such as deprivation, familial struggles and other adversities.

The project provided students with valuable insights into the motorsport industry, covering topics such as budgeting, branding, project management and race car design.

At the end of the programme, students got the unique opportunity to visit Knockhill Racing Circuit where they saw various race cars and vehicles from single seaters to a Ferrari F430.

In the beginning, only 10% of students had considered a career in motorsport. As a result of the programme, more than 40% were more interested in motorsport as a career and over 80% had a better understanding of how to enter the industry.

Thomas Johnstone, Programme Lead at AFBE-UK Scotland, said: “Witnessing the success of our inaugural NextGen programme at Wester Hailes has been incredibly rewarding.

“It underscores the transformative impact that initiatives like these can have on young minds facing diverse challenges. We have not only imparted valuable knowledge but instilled a sense of possibility and ambition in these students.

“The collaboration fosters diversity in STEM, ensuring that every young individual, regardless of their background, has the opportunity to excel in these exciting fields.”

Lucy Gee, Teacher of Modern Languages at Wester Hailes High School, said: “Pupils have engaged well, with a number of them being offered mentoring and work experience as a follow up to the group sessions. The programme has been excellent and the objective of raising aspirations has certainly been met.

“There is a real buzz around the school about the programme and we are grateful to AFBE-UK Scotland and to Mission 44 for this special partnership and opportunity.”

Katie Miller, Head of Impact at Mission 44, said: “Mission 44 believes in a fairer, more inclusive future in which all young people have the same access to explore careers in STEM and motorsports. AFBE-UK completing the first cohort of NextGen in Edinburgh is an exciting milestone in ensuring young people in the region have the same access to explore exciting career opportunities.”

Mission 44 was launched by seven-time Formula One world champion Sir Lewis Hamilton in 2021.

AFBE-UK Scotland provides mentoring programmes to support young people with their STEM careers. This includes NextGen, where industry leaders and professionals give advice to pupils through entertaining events; Transition, where industry leaders help aspiring engineering professionals to enter the job market; and Real Projects, where industry professionals share their knowledge and expertise.

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