The technology and engineering sectors have some of the biggest skills shortages in the UK, but also some of the greatest opportunities for future jobs. We want to proactively include as many people as possible in the future of digital.
We will be hosting several listening workshops throughout June and July, for different groups of individuals currently underrepresented or underserved in engineering. Each workshop will provide opportunities for you to share your voice, participate in discussions and network with like-minded people.
Neurodiversity Week celebrates our unique strengths and differences, while recognising that the many talents of people with ADHD, autism, dyslexia, dyspraxia and other neurodiverse ways of thinking and learning are often not suited to traditional, formal learning environments.
Science Hunters is a Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) outreach and research programme that uses Minecraft to engage children from under-represented groups with STEM. Projects have covered a wide range of topics such as the Amazon rainforest, understanding diabetes, earth science and volcanoes and space, with the Building to Break Barriers project currently running at UWE Bristol engaging children with many aspects of engineering.
Minecraft is the second-best selling video game of all time and extremely popular with children. Players place and break blocks with a wide range of appearances and properties, to build a huge range of constructions. It can be played either as a single-player game or in a shared virtual world with multiple users playing together, and was chosen for Science Hunters because of its popularity (children want to play it!), particular appeal to children who learn differently, and suitability for explaining science.
A key target group for Science Hunters is children with Special Educational Needs (SEN), particularly through a dedicated Minecraft Club that has been running since 2015. It soon became clear that taking part in the club, alongside children with similar needs in an accepting environment, and playing a game which was a shared special interest, had more benefits for participants than STEM learning alone.
When face-to-face sessions are possible, as they were until the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Minecraft Club uses a dedicated server, so that children can play together in a safe social online space. Most of the children who attend have ADHD, autism and/or dyslexia. Spaces are limited to no more than 16 at a time, with simple guidelines to keep the club fun; children are not under pressure to conform to ‘neurotypical’ behaviour norms as may be expected in non-specific settings.
STEM topics are briefly introduced, and then participants are free to build in Minecraft in relation to that topic; while adults are there to guide and support, children are encouraged to follow their own interests and ideas to create their own unique designs. For four years, data were collected from participating children and their parents/carers, who attended with them, through surveys and interviews.
During this time, 101 children aged 5-17 years attended; responses were gathered from 29 children and 37 caregivers. Results indicated that children both enjoyed and learnt something from attending, and while their feedback understandably often focused on Minecraft, they also indicated that they had benefitted socially and emotionally from being in the shared space with other children with similar interests. This was supported by insights from parents and carers, who described benefits outside the club, such as improved confidence and wellbeing, improved social skills, and reduced need for formal learning support.
Interest in playing Minecraft is what motivates children to attend, and the game provides a range of opportunities for children to potentially develop social and educational skills. This is supported by the process of designing and completing builds, independently or collaboratively, and communicating with others within the shared virtual world. Playing in the same physical space enhances this, as communication can move between the virtual and real worlds and allow in-person peer support and the ‘safe space’ provided in our Minecraft Club supports children with SEN to interact naturally and spontaneously. While it was set up as part of STEM outreach, the social communication impacts of our Minecraft Club – such as making friends, fitting in, and feeling valued without judgement regardless of completing tasks or conforming to expected social behaviours – are at least as important.
Minecraft Club is currently running virtually as part of Building to Break Barriers. We’ve looked at earthquake-proof buildings, protecting against flooding, tunnels, drones and more, and are exploring the effects of the change to meeting online.
The session had fantastic engagement, with pupils sending in over 100 questions to the panel of four amazing engineers from the West of England.
Questions and discussions led by the students covered a huge number of topics, including job interviews, working abroad, the transition from school to the workplace, gap years, influences, chosen subjects, and being a woman in STEM. All mixed in with the real stories and experiences of local engineers, from roast potatoes and chocolate, to the enjoyment of rooting through people’s bins!
Olivia Sweeney talked about her experiences studying Chemical Engineering, and her opportunities working abroad in Sweden, Romania and Pakistan. She also surprised us all by saying that her favourite part of her job as a sustainable waste consultant was looking through people’s bins!
Olivia collects first hand data to understand what people put in their bins, when they do so, and why so that she can work to make it easier for people to recycle, reduce waste and make the process more circular.
When asked about her route into a role as a Naval Architect, Laura Star got the pupil’s tastebuds tingling by talking about her experience as a food engineer working with lots of chocolate! An unexpected route into naval architecture, where she helps plan how different parts fit together like a jigsaw to form enormous ships and sea-vessels.
Laura also gave the pupils some strong advice about being a woman in STEM, and her experiences of working in a largely male-dominated environment.
Rich Moorcraft spoke about his journey to becoming a technical design engineer and manager at a packaging company, through an aerospace engineering apprenticeship. The pupils were really interested to hear about the choices he made when leaving school at 16, and his advice for pushing through into STEM without taking the traditional academic and higher education route.
When talking about the favourite parts of her job as a mechanical design engineer, Temi Odanye showed the pupils some great shots of her and hundreds of her colleagues that she helped to grow! It was her first batch of crops at a company that works to make farming more sustainable and efficient, helping to tackle some of the world’s most important challenges.
DETI Inspire at UWE Bristol are running a series of engineering engagement events with local schools during British Science Week this year (5th-14th March) called The Big Beam Infor British Science Week and they invite anyone currently studying or working in engineering to take part.
The Big Beam In aims to connect children throughout the South West with real-life engineers and showcase the diversity of engineering, its people, skills and future career opportunities.
The sessions will take place virtually and full lesson plans and guidance are provided to all teachers and engineers taking part. These lessons are themed around DETI Inspire’s latest school resource Engineering Curiosity – a set of top-trump style cards which have been created with engineers across the region.
Laura studied for a degree in mechanical engineering at the University of the West of England (UWE) before joining the Bus Engineering graduate scheme at FirstGroup. She recently shared her story in an interview with Prospects, helping students discover what it’s like to be a maintenance engineer.
In the interview Laura speaks about why she chose a career in engineering, a typically male-dominated industry, and gives her insight into how we might increase female representation – through relatable role models and more opportunity for girls to engage with engineering activities at a young age.
Girls also need to see more representation of people that look like them in engineering roles.
She also mentions becoming a member of the Women’s Engineering Society (WES) after attending conferences as a student at UWE, and how these experiences helped increase her confidence and develop supportive networks, allowing her to create a women’s engineering society whilst studying for her degree.
The issues raised in Laura’s interview are incredibly important. With women currently representing just 12% of the UK engineering workforce, more needs to be done to encourage and support girls to study and pursue a career in engineering and help retain those women already in the industry.
UWE Bristol’s peer mentoring programme Women Like Me aims to address these issues head on.
Women Like Me pairs mid-career women engineers with junior women engineers, and provides career and public engagement mentoring. As part of the programme, junior engineers deliver engineering engagement activities in local schools and at local public events, providing positive role models for young girls. Through this approach, the project will lead to impact both in the workplace today, and for the future of the engineering profession.
Women Like Me pairs senior women engineers with junior women engineers to undertake mentoring and engineering education outreach in the West of England region. Engineering is a creative, socially conscious, and collaborative discipline, and this project aims to support girls and women to make a difference in society.
Why is this important?
Only 12% of engineers in the UK are women. In order to support female engineers, more girls need to connect with engineering as a career, with positive female role models, and more women need to be supported to make a difference in the workplace.
Women Like Me is addressing this by pairing mid-career women engineers with junior women engineers to provide career and public engagement mentoring. Junior engineers will deliver engineering engagement activities in local schools and at local public events, providing positive role models for young girls. Through this approach, the project will lead to impact both in the workplace today, and for the future of the engineering profession.
Who can take part?
Mid-career and early career female engineers working in the West of England region can get involved in the project. Senior women engineers are those who have been working in engineering for at least five years. Junior women engineers are those with less experience than this, and can include apprentices, trainees, undergraduate and postgraduate students and postdoctoral researchers.
What will it involve?
We will offer networking opportunities to all participants at the start (autumn 2020) and end (summer 2021) of the project. Depending on COVID restrictions, these may take place virtually. Senior engineers will receive support in mentoring and should meet with their junior engineer mentee at least twice during the project. This can take any form that best suits each pair. Junior engineers will receive mentoring support from senior engineers and training in public engagement. They will then undertake at least three engineering outreach activities with local schools and public events, which again, may be virtual. Coordination of activity is provided and supported by UWE.
How do I sign up?
To take part in the project this year, participants should complete the DETI Diversity Demonstrator survey and select Women Like Me from the list of areas of interest (along with any other areas you are interested in!) byFriday 4th December. The project coordinators will then be in touch having allocated the mentor/mentee pairs.
The Department of Engineering Design & Mathematics (EDM) at UWE Bristol have signed up to the Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) Ten Steps.
As only 24% of the core-STEM workforce in the UK, women are the largest pool of under-represented talent in the country’s STEM-based industries. To tackle this, WISE developed the Ten Steps framework to help businesses achieve greater balance in their workforces.
As an action-driven, evidence-based approach, which was developed in consultation with industry partners, the Ten Steps supports organisations to improve recruitment, retention and progression of women; something that is also at the core of UWE’s Women Like Me tiered mentoring and outreach programme for women in engineering. Women Like Me launches for 2020-2021 with an online event on 12th November, including an introduction to the Ten Steps, women’s mentoring and outreach for under-represented groups.
What are the Ten Steps?
Signatories to the Ten Steps first complete a diagnostic tool, which highlights current strengths and areas that can be used to further improve workforce balance. This links to core principles, the ‘Ten Steps’:
Understand the starting point
Creative job design
Transparent progression opportunities
Equitable sponsorship of female talent
Promote retention and development of women
Treat this a business improvement
Share learning and good practice
EDM is already doing great work in all these areas, including achieving an Athena Swan Bronze Award. This success will be built on further as the department becomes one of the latest WISE Ten Steps signatories, and will particularly focus on making even more improvements in areas such as flexible working and changing mindsets.
The Ten Steps framework operates through the lens of a cultural backdrop driving the low representation of women in STEM industries in the UK, particularly in comparison to equivalent sectors in other parts of the world. Again, in close alignment with the principles of Women Like Me, the approach aims to increase the number of visible female role models in senior STEM positions, in turn making STEM-based career choices more appealing to girls, as they can see people ‘like them’ working and succeeding in these fields. WISE works with signatories to share practice and experiences, and enable them to learn from each other to improve balance and support for women across the sector. These insights will also be useful in improving representation for other groups, ultimately driving the workforce to become more diverse and accessible to all.
The Engineering Design and Mathematics (EDM) department at UWE Bristol have been taking part in Tomorrow’s Engineers Week, an annual campaign that highlights to young people that engineering is a creative, problem solving, exciting career that improves the world around us.
Throughout the week engineering institutions, employers and schools come together to show young people the vital importance of engineering careers and to provide information about how to become an engineer in the future. This year EDM have been contributing to the campaign through their social media channels, organising a Digital Engineering Careers Fair for young people and, rather excitingly, signing up to the Tomorrow’s Engineers Code.
Launched in October 2020, the Tomorrow’s Engineers Code is a commitment to work toward common goals to increase the diversity and number of young people entering engineering careers. To achieve these goals, Signatories make four pledges about their approach to funding, designing, delivering, and learning from engineering-inspiration activities (including STEM programmes dedicated to inspiring young people into engineering).
Improve the quality, inclusivity, targeting and reach of activities designed to inspire young people
Deliver a joined-up approach to drive change at scale
The EDM department is extremely well placed to deliver on these pledges, with several well established programmes that aim to increase diversity within engineering already running, including mentoring programmes such as Women Like Me and BAME Girls into Engineering. EDM also supports primary (Curiosity Connections) and secondary (Future Quest) engagement providers, and the department’s new DETI Inspire team are currently developing a new targeted approach to develop and deliver engineering outreach to under-represented groups.
As a core provider of public engagement in the region and champion of equality, diversity and inclusion, the EDM department is confident in its ability to fulfil these pledges. We are very pleased to be joining the Code Community, and look forward to working together to inspire a diverse engineering workforce for the future.
Lisa Brodie, Head of Department: Engineering Design and Mathematics
DETI Inspire will map past engagement activities in the region, identifying any gaps in current outreach provision, enabling the prioritisation of outreach to those that do not currently interact with engineering-inspiration activities.
With expert advice and guidance from collaborations with organisations such as AFBE-UK and WISE, the team are developing curriculum linked engagement activities, designed to help target and understand potential participants from under-represented groups. Activities will be available for use both digitally during the current pandemic, and when physical activity can resume, they will tour schools and run out of the new Prototype and Play centre at UWE Bristol’s Engineering Building.
In order to showcase relatable role models from all backgrounds in these activities, the team are building a Diversity Demonstratornetwork – a community of diverse engineering role models, from groups currently under-represented in engineering, who will deliver engineering public engagement throughout the region.
The team are currently working with STEM Ambassadors West of England, Future Quest and the WECA Careers Hub to develop a monitoring and evaluation toolkit, to assess the impact of their activities, and will share these insights with their partners, stakeholders and the Code Community.
Co-created by and for the engineering community, The Code is ‘owned’ by its community of Signatories and Supporters.An Advisory Board and informal Thinking Group support EngineeringUK, which has been chosen to manage and deliver The Code and its community. EngineeringUK will facilitate the governance of The Code and is committed to a formal biennial review of The Code and how Signatories are meeting the pledges.
We’d like to thank This is Engineering for use of images from their public image library that aims to better represent what engineers and engineering really look like. The feature image for this blog of a young woman using a VR headset is copyright of the Institution of Engineering and Technology & Callum Wood Ford.
Bristol Technology Festival takes place online, 9th – 15th November 2020
Bristol’s Technology Festival was born in 2019 seeking to showcase the sheer breadth of technology that had been developed in the local ecosystem, and share the stories of those entrepreneurs, engineers and creatives behind the technology with the people of the city, and further afield. It seeks to destroy any barriers between technology businesses, their suppliers, educational and charity organisations and the residents of the community that they live and work in.
Events like these are more important now than ever before, with the COVID-19 pandemic dramatically changing how we work and live, technologies are playing a crucial role in keeping our communities functional and connected in a time of lockdowns and quarantines.
This year’s festival will be delivered virtually. With a jam packed schedule of workshops, webinars, discussion panels, inspirational talks and networking events, there is something for everyone to enjoy. Themes for this year include diversity, inclusivity and sustainability and the DETI Inspire team from the Engineering Design and Mathematics department at UWE Bristol will be delivering events throughout the week.
Digital Engineering Careers Event, Mon 9th – Fri 13th November
The Digital Engineering Technology Innovation (DETI) Inspire team will be delivering a week-long careers fair for children aged 14+, themed on digital engineering.
The event will be hosted on the Like To Be online platform, where students will have access to inspirational videos from a diverse group of engineering professionals, sharing stories of their engineering journey, exploring the digital tools and technologies they use within their role and discussing how engineering can make a difference to people’s lives and help solve real-world problems.
Alongside these careers talks, students will have the opportunity to explore potential employment and development opportunities on offer from local employers, chat with real-life engineers and ask questions during several live Q&A sessions being held throughout the week, including a session from EDM’s very own Maryam Lamere, Doctoral Researcher and Associate Lecturer, who will be ready to answer questions about her research on the innovative Pee Power project, a technology that converts urine and other types of wastewater into electricity.
Supporting Women and Girls in Engineering, Thursday 12th November
Only 12% of the UK’s engineers are women. Research shows that girls need to see women succeeding in STEM to feel that STEM is a potential career path for them.
Women Like Me is a peer mentoring and outreach project aimed at boosting female representation in engineering. The project pairs senior women engineers with junior women engineers to give them mentoring support as they start out in their engineering careers.
In turn, junior women undertake engineering education outreach in schools and at public events in the Bristol and Bath area. Engineering is a creative, socially conscious, and collaborative discipline, and this project aims to support girls and women to make a difference in society.
Join us for the launch event of Women Like Me 2020/21! Find out how the project will be running this year and what digital outreach opportunities are available. Network with other women engineers, and listen to inspirational speakers, including Dr Laura Fogg-Rogers, Senior Lecturer at UWE Bristol and Lead for the DETI Inspire project, and Sarah Behenna from the WISE Campaign. You can sign up to the event here.
If you would like more information on either of these upcoming events, or would like to be involved with similar events in the future, please contact the DETI Inspire team. A full line up of the Bristol Technology Festival events can be found here.
The Engineering Design and Mathematics (EDM) department at UWE Bristol are delighted to announce their new membership with the Association For Black and Minority Ethnic Engineers (AFBE).
AFBE is a registered not-for profit organisation that promotes higher achievements in education and engineering, particularly among people from black and minority ethnicity (BME) backgrounds using engineering as a platform.
Since launching the organisation in 2007 they have reached more than 6500 individuals from ethnic minority communities, supported more than 1000 university students into employment through their CV clinics and career programmes and engaged more than 4000 young people with their school outreach programme Making Engineering Hot.
Support for Schools
With a range of workshops and outreach programmes available for schools and their local communities, which focus on young people from lower socio-economic backgrounds and other under-represented communities, AFBE provide a mixture of after school clubs, weekend mentoring, one day projects and mock assessment days for apprenticeships.
Support for Students
Their hugely successful Transition Programme reaches university students across several UK universities, preparing and mentoring students for professional careers in industry. To date 70% of Transition attendees have gone on to secure jobs in industry within 12 months post-graduation.
Support for Professionals
AFBE have produced several publications and continue to work closely with leading organisations, including the Royal Academy of Engineering on various steering and focus groups to map out the life-cycle of a BME professional in industry and understand levers for retention and progression. They host many networking events and webinars throughout the year, which give professional members access to leading thought leadership within industry, mentoring from industry experts and exposure to real life projects within the industry. Other initiatives like their Real Projects and Chess Club give professionals ongoing professional development support including mentoring for professional registration.
Engineering is essential for the future prosperity and economic growth of the UK, however there is a growing skills gap within the industry. Lack of diversity is a major concern for the engineering workforce, with only 12% of women engineers and 7% from a BME background. Widening participation in under-represented groups is an essential part of addressing this nationwide skills and employment gap.
In order to tackle this challenge, the EDM department, as leader for skills development for the Digital Engineering Technology and Innovation (DETI) initiative, have launched their new DETI Inspire programme, which will champion STEM for children in the West of England, with a particular focus on challenging stereotypes and perceptions about STEM careers in order to appeal to under-represented groups in engineering.
The EDM department is a proud leader of skills development for DETI, with a strong commitment to increase diversity, we have several great projects already underway such as BAME girls into Engineering, a strong Equality, Diversity and Inclusivity committee, and of course our Athena SWAN Bronze Award. We are very pleased to support AFBE as part of our work with DETI to expand support for BAME young people, our students and staff, and engineering employees across the region.
Lisa Brodie, Head of Department: Engineering Design and Mathematics
With the recent launch of their Diversity Demonstrator, a network of diverse engineering students and professionals, the team hope to inspire the next generation of engineers, providing engineering outreach, mentoring and role modelling to all children in the region. For more information or to sign up to the Diversity Demonstrator engineering network, complete this short survey.
If you are a current UWE student or member of staff and would like more information on the support available to you from the department or AFBE, please contact email@example.com