Ebenezer Adenmosun shares how the Ground Forum Undergraduate Mentoring Programme (GFUMP) is helping demystify civil and ground engineering.
Mentoring schemes play a key role in improving the underrepresentation of minority groups within the engineering industry.
Four years ago, in November 2019, I was seated in an industry technical committee meeting.
On that particular day, I was struck by the lack of diversity in the room.
To be honest, this experience was the norm for me in my professional life, but that day, it bothered me.
And I’m happy it did, because it was a pivotal moment.
Our meeting was in central London, one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world.
Yet, I was the only person from an ethnic minority background in the room, and the only woman present at the meeting was taking the minutes.
It didn’t seem right to me.
That evening I emailed Steve Hadley, an important figure in the ground engineering industry, and we set up a meeting to address the problem.
The Ground Forum Undergraduate Mentoring Programme is born
After months of planning, the team came up with the Ground Forum Undergraduate Mentoring Programme.
This scheme aimed to connect undergraduates studying related subjects at university with experienced ground engineering professionals in the industry.
It began on 24 November 2020 when 20 mentors from across the ground engineering industry were introduced to 40 students on a Zoom call.
The undergraduates were studying civil engineering, geology and environmental subjects from a variety of universities across the UK: Portsmouth, Bradford, Hertfordshire, Coventry, London, Sheffield, and Loughborough.
Now, three years later, 110 mentees have passed through the scheme from nearly 20 universities across the UK.
Coming together for positive solutions
The mentoring programme has become an example of what can be achieved when the industry comes together to implement positive solutions to a problem.
The scheme is run and championed by the Ground Forum, an umbrella body for the ground engineering industry.
As such, the programme has become an established part of the sector’s support network for new entrants.
At the 2022 Ground Engineering Awards, it was named winner in the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Champion category.
Why was this mentoring scheme necessary?
The main driver for developing the programme was to address the lack of diversity within ground engineering and attract more students from underrepresented groups.
Generally, we found that there was a reluctance to join the industry because of a lack of diverse role models.
Other barriers include stereotypical portrayals of construction workers and how ground engineering is perceived by the outside world.
Unfortunately, as a result, the industry can feel daunting for students from underrepresented groups who may think that the industry isn’t welcoming.
We’ve found that the scheme has helped reduce these stereotypes and knock down these barriers.
How does the mentoring scheme help students?
Feedback from the mentees shows that they’ve found the scheme to be a game changer in terms of exposure to the industry.
As well as the mentoring, the scheme also offers a variety of workshops and site visits, with the two most popular workshops being on CV writing and interview techniques.
All mentees are requested to join LinkedIn, where a group has been set up so mentees can network with mentors and fellow mentees.
There they can discuss industry events, key aspects of the industry that interest them and potential job opportunities.
The programme also places a lot of emphasis on building the confidence of the mentees by encouraging them to network.
Developing career-long relationships
The scheme has been highly successful, with former mentees obtaining roles in the industry after completing their mentorship.
Career-long relationships have also been developed, which will help smooth our mentees’ entry and development within the industry.
The plan is that our former mentees will serve as role models and mentors to attract new underrepresented and diverse talent into the industry in years to come.
This year’s scheme will be launching soon, so applications for the Ground Forum Undergraduate Mentoring Programme’s 2023-2024 academic year are now open.
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