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TACKLING TOMORROW’S ENGINEERING CHALLENGES

The University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) is focused on solving future global challenges and transforming futures, through outstanding learning, world-leading research and a culture of enterprise.

This vision was the starting point for the design of the new School of Engineering building – a striking modern space that reflects the changing face of engineering education and places the professional engineer at its core.

Completed in autumn 2020, the building supports many different engineering disciplines in one contemporary space. It provides different and more flexible ways of working for students and staff, encouraging cross-disciplinary collaboration and problem solving.

Industry standard equipment and flexible teaching spaces are combined with a unique approach to teaching design. The emphasis is on project-based learning and live industry briefs, giving students real life contexts to work with, helping them to develop the most indemand skills that employers want and need.

But it’s not simply about professional skills development and excellent facilities – the University is focused on introducing sustainability across all areas of the curriculum. For student engineers this means understanding their purpose as a professional engineer and the impact their work can have on improving the lives of individuals and
communities.

Engineering has an important role to play in everyday life. We are facing challenges that require urgent action on a local and global scale and Project Week is a key component in bringing this to life for students. For the past three years UWE Bristol has partnered with Engineers Without Borders (EWB) to deliver project based learning activities that develop the students’ sense of global responsibility. By participating in the EWB Engineering for People Design Challenge, UWE Bristol students are investing their skills and talent to benefit the planet and its people. They have previously come up with innovations around homelessness and looked at ways to improve energy generation in the Indian province of Tamil Nadu.

This is just one of the ways UWE Bristol embeds professional competencies with a sustainability focus throughout the engineering curriculum – encouraging collaboration, creativity and innovation across disciplines and building confidence and resilience in its student engineers.

The University is not only keen to inspire current students but also the next generation of engineers, through its work as the strategic lead for skills with the Digital Engineering Technology & Innovation (DETI) initiative. The West of England is a hub for science, technology, engineering and mathematics but – as with the rest of the UK – there is a huge skills and employment gap for future engineers. The DETI INSPIRE programme champions science for children in the region with a particular focus on breaking down stereotypes, challenging perceptions and raising aspirations regarding STEM careers in under-represented groups.

To raise awareness of STEM careers and encourage a more diverse engineering workforce, UWE Bristol is establishing an Engineering Engagement Hub to work with DETI partners and local schools. Digital engineering activities will aim to inspire children to tackle sustainability challenges, teachers will have access to CPD events to support and upskill them, and a network of diverse engineering role models will champion engineering public engagement through work with schools and families.

By demonstrating the possibilities of an engineering career and making the challenges and rewards real for current and future students, UWE Bristol hopes to inspire a new generation of engineers ready to face future challenges head on. A diverse, responsible, adaptable workforce with the professional tools they need to act on their ideas and make them happen – paving the way for more efficient and sustainable solutions with local and global impacts.

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