ERA Foundation Roundtable Series: Committing to an Inclusive and Accessible STEM sector

Last week, the APPG for Manufacturing (APMG) held a roundtable with Engineering UK exploring how we can create a more inclusive and accessible STEM sector, the final within a series conducted by Policy Connect and the ERA Foundation titled ‘Supporting UK Manufacturing in a post COVID-19 World’. 

This event was chaired by Floriane Fidegnon, Head of Industry, Technology, and Innovation (ITI) at Policy Connect. Speakers included:

  • Dr Hilary Leevers, CEO of Engineering UK
  • Dr Martin Hollins, Disability Champion at the Athena Forum
  • Dr Nike Folayan MBE, Founder and Chair of the Association for Black and Minority Ethnic Engineers (AFBE-UK).

Dr Hilary Leevers began the discussion by elaborating on the need to level up aspiration for all young people, adequate career guidance, and a refreshed career strategy to achieve this. Dr Leevers acknowledged the difficulty in bringing urgency to such a long term issue, but emphasised it is critical now more than ever to elevate the profile of the high value careers that can be found in engineering.  Dr Leevers also mentioned Engineering UK’s recent report, Securing the Future, which provided recommendations for better STEM careers provision in schools and colleges in England.

Dr Martin Hollins provided his expertise on the barriers faced by people with disabilities both within the STEM sector and those wanting to enter it. Dr Hollins mentioned that the proportion of disabled students and staff has been growing in recent years, but it is still lower in comparison to other non-STEM sectors. Dr Hollins recommended that it is critical for people with wide-ranging disabilities to be centred in these discussions.

Dr Nike Folayan discussed the need for better diversity and inclusion policy, and for making the sector more welcoming to people wanting to enter the industry. Dr Folayan emphasised how it is critical to go beyond diversity and inclusion as a tick box exercise. She also said:

‘Diversity without Inclusion is a non-starter. We must go beyond talking; it is most about our actions and about accountability. Our industry needs to be held accountable to the outcomes and there needs to be real action.’

Lord Bilimoria, Vice-chair of the APMG, also emphasised for the need for more diversity within the STEM sector. On representation, he said:

‘People need to be able to see themselves in leadership; it is inspirational. That inspiration creates aspiration, which leads to achievements, thus creating a virtuous circle.’

This was the final roundtable in this series, held in conjunction with the ERA Foundation, titled ‘Supporting UK Manufacturing in a post COVID-19 World’. This series will be followed by a short report in the next few months.