ENGINEERING and construction students are being urged to join a major new pioneering diversity employment scheme to secure job opportunities with the likes of Balfour Beatty, University of Edinburgh and WSP.
Rolling out across Edinburgh and South East Scotland, the Pathways Programme has been launched by a company called EqualEngineers – which exists to make the engineering and technology sector more diverse – in partnership with the Housing, Construction & Infrastructure (HCI) Skills Gateway – a £6million investment as part of the Edinburgh and South-East Scotland City Region Deal.
The scheme was put together in response to some serious student diversity and inclusion problems being faced among the engineering and technology sector, with underrepresented groups facing more difficulties gaining employment after graduating than their white male counterparts.
For example, EqualEngineers say Black and minority ethnic engineering hopefuls account for 26% of the entire student population – yet only 9% end up in employment.
EqualEngineers and Pathways Programme founder Dr Mark McBride-Wright, who grew up in Midlothian, said: “We have so many challenges facing us, from net zero to the climate crisis. It’s imperative that we empower people from all backgrounds to consider opportunities in this sector.
“Without question a more diverse workforce helps everyone to expand their ideas and drive excellence so I really hope the Pathways Programme can help catalyse getting more diverse talent onto an education or employment pathway in this industry.”
Furthermore, according to a report by the HCI, in Scotland during 2019/20 there were 15,865 entrants to engineering undergraduate courses at Scottish universities, 82% of whom were male. Their data also shows 71% of white engineering graduates were in full-time work six months after graduating as opposed to 51% of Black, Asian and minority ethnic graduates.
Additionally, the report says 16.5% of engineers in the UK are women and 88.6% of the workforce are white, 21% of engineering professionals come from low socio-economic backgrounds as opposed to 29% of the entire UK workforce and white men from higher socio-economic backgrounds are eight times more likely to have a management or senior role in construction and industry before they are 40.
HCI Programme Manager Kirsty Connell-Skinner said: “Deliberate effort on the part of the engineering and construction industry is necessary to harness the widest possible range of talent and to nurture the innovation this sector needs.”
It’s clear then, that students from diverse backgrounds face additional challenges in securing graduate employment in engineering and statistics around student diversity in the industry paints a stark picture about the employment opportunities available to underrepresented groups.
However, the Pathways Programme is designed to provide diverse students with a variety of opportunities and supportive elements to ensure greater employability outcomes after graduation, and to improve their sense of inclusion and belonging within the engineering and technology industry.
Key elements of this include; in-person careers insights and employability workshop sessions plus online programme supporting students on work readiness, emotional intelligence, employability, and interpersonal skills development. A mentoring programme, pairing-up engineers from industry with engineering students, and work experience, placement, internship and graduate opportunities from engineering and technology partner organisations are also provided.
It comes as the demand for engineering and construction workers in Edinburgh and South-East Scotland increases with the suggestion that by 2024, a further 4,400 roles will be required to meet requirements in the region.
Dr Mark McBride-Wright added: “The Pathways Programme is running right now, providing students access to things like In-person careers insights and employability workshop sessions, virtual training on work readiness and interpersonal skills development.
“We have also run a mentoring programme to pair-up students with engineers from industry, to improve their understanding of employment and provide support to their concerns and opportunities for work experience, placement, internship and graduate roles.
“Organisations taking part in the programme are looking to support the necessity to improve the employability opportunities of students from diverse backgrounds, and are striving to impact their own organisation’s inclusive culture.
“Please contact me via firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to take part or want more information on the programme.”
A full report on phase one of the project, which follows more than 26 focus group discussions is available here: https://bit.ly/EqEngHCIReportEdinSEScotland
The outcomes for businesses involved, which include Anderson Strathern, Balfour Beatty, Built Environment – Smarter Transformation, Cala Homes, Max Fordham, Morrison Construction, Mott MacDonald, Robertson Group, Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, SWECO and WSP, are an improved diversity strategy invigorated through large-scale positive action, increased awareness of diversity within the organisation, greater awareness of a diverse talent pool, with recruitment options, and raised profile amongst students – in turn securing more applications for job openings.
Others involved in this major initiative include Borders College, Edinburgh College, Fife College, West Lothian College, Fife Community Trade Hub, Melville Housing Association, The Ridge, City of Edinburgh Council, East Lothian Council, Fife Council, Midlothian Council, West Lothian Council, Edinburgh Napier University, Heriot-Watt University and University of Edinburgh.