Collaborating with partners to improve engineering outreach

Jul 6, 2022

By Annette Valentine, Head of Business Partnerships

At the last count, there were over 600 organisations in the STEM landscape involved in delivering STEM education and outreach support. This complex landscape makes it difficult for employers to work out how and where to focus their effort to deliver impactful outreach programmes that enrich the lives and aspirations of the young people in the communities in which they operate. The Tomorrow’s Engineers Live conference, taking place on Monday 11 July, will bring together the engineering outreach community to discuss these challenges and share good practice.

In my experience, engineering employers are keen and committed to inspiring and informing more young people from diverse communities about careers in engineering from a business and social perspective. That said, they do need to ensure that they are making a difference with the resources and time they have available. How best to do that underpins many of the conversations I have with our employer partners.

Working with others

Collaborating with others to share insight, good practice, effort and resources is one way to support and accelerate thinking and planning, and strengthen delivery to maximise the impact of their outreach work. This is exactly the approach we’re taking with the action research project that we are delivering in partnership with the Sheffield Mayoral Authority, The Manufacturing Forum and local delivery partners and stakeholders. Our plan is to work with a group of large companies and SMEs that reflect the local engineering growth sectors and prove the value of a collaborative outreach delivery model, wrapped around existing structures and programmes like the local CEC Career Hub, the Tomorrow’s Engineers Code and local STEM outreach programmes like those run by the work-wise foundation.  

Our action research project will take place during the summer/autumn of 2022. Through a series of one to one conversations and focus groups, we will talk to local companies, teachers and various stakeholders and find out from them what challenges they experience, what outcomes they would like to see and how they think our proposed delivery model could work in practice.

Implementing a strong engineering outreach approach

So, what does our proposed delivery model look like? One of our key objectives is to equip companies with the knowledge, confidence and tools required to inspire, engage and inform the next generation of engineers and excite more young people from diverse communities about the variety and opportunity presented by a career in modern engineering.

At the same time, we will connect local employers to existing structures and supporting programmes. We aim to bring engineering companies together with the Careers and Enterprise Company, the professional engineering institutions, and school, college and university networks as part of the Tomorrow’s Engineers Code Community to collectively develop and deliver impactful, evidence-based community engagement programmes that:

  • transform perceptions and promote engineering as an exciting, realistic and worthwhile career
  • enable schools to easily incorporate regular, inspirational and meaningful encounters with engineering companies and engineers for all their pupils in line with recognised research and best practice
  • enable young people to visualise a career pathway in engineering and recognise that this is something that they could achieve.

The benefits of this collaborative approach include:

1. Enabling challenges to be solved together, whereas individually, the answers may be out of reach

2. Increasing access to useful resources shared between the partners and valuable networks

3. Simplifying a complex landscape and freeing up time and head space to make the most of the ambitions and commitments of the partners

4. Increased impact and efficiencies and reduced costs of delivering engineering outreach programmes

5. Driving improvement and change in the wider landscape through a delivery model that can be rolled out to other areas

We and our partners are excited to see collaboration in practice in this way and are looking forward to the outcomes of the project in due course. Working with others in partnership can help to increase reach and impact, and therefore create more opportunities to inspire young people to explore a career in engineering. Opportunities to get together with people who share a common purpose through events like Tomorrow’s Engineers Live provide an excellent opportunity for organisations to collaborate and improve their engineering outreach.

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