Waste sector charity backs schoolgirls engineering programme

A residential programme at Oxford University, offering girls aged 14-15 the opportunity to learn about engineering and the waste management sector, is to be supported by the WEERT waste sector charity.

A trial year for the programme was held in 2019

Oxford University and WEERT – the Waste Environmental Education Research Trust – have announced that the Trust has agreed to fund the programme known as ‘Uncover Engineering’, which is run by the University’s Department of Engineering Science.

The support for the programme comes with the engineering industry facing a significant shortage of newly-skilled engineers, with particular underrepresentation from female students and students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

The programme sees the schoolgirls staying at the university for a week and learning about engineering with activities including a visit to a waste management site.

The University says it is dedicated to promoting engineering to students from backgrounds underrepresented in the industry and in Higher Education.

The Department of Engineering Science notes that it “has a range of access initiatives to combat the underrepresentation of female students in Engineering and to encourage and support students from disadvantaged or underrepresented backgrounds to study STEM subjects and consider engineering as a future career path”.

Decision

Uncover Engineering is a residential programme for girls aged 14-15 who, says the University, “are creative, inventive and curious about the world around them”. Uncover Engineering is aimed at this age group because pupils are expected to make a decision on their A Level subjects in Year 11, and currently male students are far more likely to study the subjects required for engineering – including maths and physics.

By targeting female students in Year 10 (age 14-15), Uncover Engineering aims to give participants the advantage of being able to make a more informed decision.

Priority is given to applicants who are entitled to free school meals or the pupil premium, who live in an area which has a low progression rate to Higher Education, whose parents or guardians do not have a university degree, and who are in care or are young carers.  A call for applications to this year’s scheme is available at Uncover Engineering 2022.

The programme includes laboratory work, such as bridge building

During the programme, successful applicants will take part in hands-on workshops and lectures designed to introduce and explore the skills useful to engineers. As part of the programme, the students will be taken on a visit, including to a waste management facility, where they are able to see some practical applications of engineering and experience day-to-day life for an engineer.

Whilst in Oxford, and after the course (via online messaging platform), participants will be supervised by some of the department’s trained Student Ambassadors.

Insights

Professor Ron Roy, head of the Department of Engineering Science, says: “It’s crucial that Engineering as a profession reflects the diversity of the world around us and benefits from different perspectives, creativity and insights. We are delighted to launch Uncover Engineering in 2022 with the support of the Waste Environmental Education Research Trust.

“Residential programmes such as Uncover Engineering and the other access initiatives we offer are a key part of our effort to encourage young female students to consider engineering as a career, learn what attributes a successful engineer needs, and to study the subjects required to apply for a university degree in engineering.”

We welcome the inclusion of waste management facilities on the visit schedule

 – Neil Grundon, WEERT Trustee

Supportive

Neil Grundon, WEERT Trustee and deputy chairman of Grundon Waste Management, says: “The Trust is pleased to support the Uncover Engineering programme. We are particularly supportive of its focus on trying to encourage girls to consider engineering as a potential career choice before they have to choose which subjects to study at A Level. We also welcome the inclusion of waste management facilities on the visit schedule for the school pupils during their time with the Department of Engineering Science.”

Diverse

Department of Engineering Science Access Officer, Elizabeth Miltenberger, says: “From past activities, we have found that interacting with a diverse group of current undergraduates is the best way for prospective students to really understand life at university and is key in helping to break down any barriers or pre-conceived notions about who studies at Oxford.”

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