The Royal Academy of Engineering’s new Diversity Impact Programme has given the largest amount of available funding to UCLan’s Entrepreneurship and Start-up for Engineers (EASE) Zone, a new 18-month extra-curricular entrepreneurship and start-up initiative for students in the School of Engineering.
The EASE Zone was developed to celebrate creativity and innovation in UCLan’s next generation of engineers, especially those from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds and women.
Bringing together business start-up workshops, expert-led masterclasses, and employer challenges, including network and award celebrations, the scheme hopes to increase the number of under-represented students who transfer into the engineering profession on graduation.
Emma Speed, Director of UCLan’s Creative Innovation Zone and Enterprise, said: “It’s fantastic we’ve received this funding as it will allow us to continue the work we’ve started doing to bring together people from across engineering to help them think differently and creatively. By sharing their ideas, we really hope in the long-term they will look at becoming entrepreneurs in their own right and set up their own companies.”
Partnered by the Creative Innovation Zone, Propeller and Careers, the main goal of the EASE Zone is to enable and prepare prospective engineers for the challenges of employment and showcase opportunities around them whilst being supported by UCLan academic lecturers and business professionals.
At its launch, there was interest from 65 students from multiple diverse backgrounds, 25% of which were women, and it included students from a BAME background and individuals with disabilities.
Ric Brame, Enterprise Manager at the Creative Innovation Zone, said: “The EASE projects have certainly provided students with a taste of the real world. They have demonstrated creative thinking, resilience and a good level of maturity when responding to employers’ feedback and requests. It has been a pleasure watching them grow professionally on this learning journey.”
External professional organisations that are currently working with students include Preston-based LED screen company ADI.tv and Bentley Motors Limited.
In recent weeks, participating students have been tasked with pitching practical ideas, like on BBC’s The Apprentice, to both companies to boost their formal presentation skills.
The entrepreneur masterclasses feature business etiquette, self-branding and skill workshops in presentation, CV writing and job interviews.
Dr Hayaatun Sillem CBE, Chief Executive of the Royal Academy of Engineering, added: “The Academy’s new Diversity Impact Programme has been designed to support universities in making a step change in diversity and inclusivity across engineering Higher Education. Our goal is to help universities to develop interventions, informed by evidence, that transform the outcomes of students from diverse and underrepresented backgrounds. It is vital that we seek innovative and creative ways to accelerate the pace of change rather than accepting that incremental improvement is all that is possible.
“There is an extensive evidence base supporting the benefits of diverse teams working in inclusive cultures but there is still a way to go in understanding how to deliver the culture of inclusion that unlocks the power of diversity. These projects will give us invaluable insights and experience that will be shared across the Higher Education community so that we can work collectively to drive positive change.”