The Association for Black and Minority Ethnic Engineers (AFBE-UK), an organisation that encourages people of black and minority ethnicity (BME) to study engineering, runs programmes and activities from which mentoring relationships develop routinely. At AFBE-UK, mentoring activities mainly revolve around a programme dubbed “Transition” which helps to prepare young people for the world of work.
Scottish Chair Ollie Folayan says its introduction was partly fuelled by the high rates of people of BME origin graduating with an engineering-related degree but then struggling to secure a job.
The programme’s centrepiece events are twice-yearly employability workshops where industry professionals work with students on mock interviews, CV reviews and assessment centres. “It’s a simple format but it really works,” explains Ollie. “It’s an informal setting and students have the opportunity to ‘fail’. In fact, that’s part of the purpose – people have the leeway to make their mistakes there and learn from them.”
The Transition programme has reached over 800 students in Aberdeen alone and has now been introduced at universities across the UK via the organisation’s national network.
A 2016 survey indicated that over 50% of people who had taken part between 2011 and 2014 had secured a degree-relevant post within six months. The figure reached 70% over a 12-month timeframe. Even more encouragingly, 78% of all respondents believed the programme had contributed to their professional success.
Ollie says many mentorships have developed out of contacts made at the workshops. “The relationships between mentors and mentees come as a natural consequence of their interaction – it’s an organic process.” He believes the close links between the oil and gas industry and professional institutions which promote the principles of mentorship help make it a significant feature of the industry landscape.
He is also confident that mentoring has a role to play in ensuring workforce continuity and supporting knowledge transfer, particularly during times when the job market is fluid and people move around more often.
Transition is one of a series of interlinked AFBE-UK programmes that contribute to the overall mentoring culture in the organisation.
Adds Ollie: “I would certainly have liked help to prepare for the challenges I encountered in my earlier career. If I’d had a mentor, I could have had some insight into how to react to certain situations and that’s a big driver for me in doing this. I didn’t have that as someone starting out.”
This article was originally published in the Autumn 2018 issue of Wireline.