A University of Bath project to inspire students from minority backgrounds to succeed in the engineering industry by teaching leadership and entrepreneurship skills has got underway.

The Building Unconventional Engineering Careers: Creating Your Unique Fit pilot project will equip the next generation of the University’s engineering graduates with entrepreneurial skills and personal attributes to help them successfully navigate a professional currently dominated by those from more privileged social and economic backgrounds.

The cohort of 26 students, studying courses from across the University’s Faculty of Engineering & Design, met for the first time recently for a kick-off bootcamp.

They took part in design challenges and talks, while exploring the two themes of the programme –inclusive leadership and entrepreneurship.

Eminent engineer and Bath Honorary Graduate Dawn Bonfield MBE FREng shared her wealth of experience while leading a workshop on entrepreneurship, while equality, diversity and inclusion expert Tinashe Verhaeghe facilitated discussions and activities to define what inclusive leadership means, and how to be an inclusive leader.

Participants shared their experiences of influential leaders in their personal lives, and took part in a product design activity to create, market and analyse the business concept of their own original pizza.

Supported by the Royal Academy of Engineering through its Engineering Diversity Impact scheme, the project will run as a pilot until September 2024, seeking to generate confidence and awareness of alternative career pathways for engineering students from minority backgrounds to reduce engineering career deflection at entry stage.

Statistics show that 70% of women and 55% of BAME people leave engineering professions within 10 years, compared to 39% of white males, with the most departures happening at entry stage. Among engineers employed six months after graduation in the UK, 36% of BAME (vs 27% of white) and 34% of women (vs 28% of male) were in non-engineering roles.

Nadya Collantes Gladkow, a Mechanical Engineering student, took part in the event. She said: “I could not be happier with this course so far. The activities are dynamic and it was great to meet all the other students and amazing mentors.

“We then did a ‘Product in a Box’ activity on our first Tuesday session, where we had to work in groups to think of an invention and expose it to the rest of the course. It was a fun activity and feel like I have already learnt so many business skills in the first week. I’m very excited to see what the next activities will be in this programme.”

Dr Despina Moschou, a senior lecturer in electronic & electrical engineering and the Faculty’s equality, diversity and inclusion champion, said: “The engagement of the students has surpassed our expectations - they are truly embracing this initiative despite their heavy schedules with honest eagerness to learn.

“There seems to be a huge appetite in the new generations of engineers to create their own professional fit in a rapidly changing and diverse world and learning more on this topic within the interactive format we have adopted seems to be ideally suited for the purpose.”