Written by: Jasmine Brittan, EqualEngineers Student Ambassador
With the rise of technology and online jobs, it is imperative for engineering institutions to regenerate their image to have a thriving membership base of students and graduates. But how exactly they do this, is a question each institution is taking with a varying approach.
Last September, as a student coming into university on a general degree, I was overwhelmed with the plethora of different institutions. It is easy for a student, or even anyone to get bogged down with the options and fully understand which aligns best with their career goals.
Due to this very variance, I personally believe all institutions need a strong presence on campus to engage students from early on as by doing this, students will already feel involved within an institution, when it comes to pick their engineering streams and eventual graduate scheme. With 32 institutions offering a general engineering course according to The Complete University Guide, there is a big pool of students who are undecided and need further guidance from these institutions.
This aligns with my personal experience throughout my first year at university. Due to my multitude of engineering interests, I was confused with which direction I should pursue. When initially prompted to at the start of the year, I signed up to institutions with free student affiliate membership. Through emails from iMechE and ICE in lockdown, I then engaged with these institutions and through attending events and competitions, I was able to gain more experience in the industry. Examples of activities I participated in were applying for iMechE scholarships, iMechE Young Member of the Year Award, participating in ICE G&S committee meetings and competing in the regional & national final of the ICE Pitch 200 competition.
Ultimately when deciding my stream, as I enjoyed two different disciplines, I looked back at my previous experience and due to engagement with the ICE and civil engineering, I picked this as my stream. I personally believe the engineering institution heavily influenced my decision to take civil engineering and encouraged me through relevant student opportunities.
There are a number of different things institutions can do to better engage with students however I am collated a few main points which create a more open space for students to be part of:
Personally, I did not register with institutions such as IET due to their membership fee. I do not know anyone who chose to pay this and as students, we are typically already short of money and working part-time to support our living fees. For institutions that do provide a free membership fee, it creates a better space for students to learn about the industry and accelerate their career progression. With a lower student membership, institutions such as the IET may not engage students early enough when deciding the path of their career.
This is another key tool to engage with student members and unless these schemes are not in place, there will be either little engagement or we won’t have heard about the institution. This early investment creates a positive perception for students and allows them to be part of the community early on. Despite this, many scholarships or competitions have very specific requirements, excluding people who want to get involved. For example, scholarships that are only available to people before they join university excludes people who have not yet picked their stream.
After being involved in the ICE West Midlands G&S Committee and events, I believe this is a great network and would encourage all students I know to sign up to their events. This is a great way to expand your network with fellow students and graduates, as well as attending professional development & social events. A subsequent counter improvement is that I believe these networks need to become more balanced with an increase in student participation.
To emphasise their relevance through gaining chartership, events are a great way to connect with many members at once. These events are very insightful as we look to develop our careers. Particularly, with the transitions to events being online, this has allowed a greater access to students.
One last point of improvement I believe to better engage with students is by sending out student specific emails and additionally, increasing their frequency. Many of the initiatives I have been part of are due to extensive research in lockdown during my spare time however as the start of university approaches,
engagement can be continued by sending out these on email.
Conclusively, my main advice for to all engineering institutions to fuel the uptake of engineering. This article was written from a student perspective however due to prior experience, I believe these tips will allow engineering institutions to maintain relevance and thrive as we move into a technologically focussed age.
1. Complete University Guide, General Engineering. Source article –https://www.thecompleteuniversityguide.co.uk/league-tables/rankings/general-engineering