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The Association for Black Engineers UK is the first organisation bringing together black engineers to challenge and inspire young black people to enter the field of Engineering

The Association for Black Engineers UK (AFBE-UK) is the first organisation bringing together black engineers from across the board within the UK to challenge and inspire people of black origin to enter the field of Engineering

The Association for Black Engineers UK encourages engineering practitioners and those with a background in engineering but who may be working in different professions including information technology, banking and finance, academia, to come together and to focus on tangible ways to transform people’s dreams into tomorrow's realities.

ReConnect Africa spoke to the AFBE-UK’s Chairperson, Nike Folayan, about the work of the Association and to find out more about how it is encouraging entry into the profession from Black communities.

RCA: What was the driving force behind the establishment of the AFBE UK?

NF:The driving force behind the establishment of AFBE-UK is the increasing need for the representation of the black community in science and technology.


We feel that there is a need for representation of our community in spheres other than sports and entertainment. We acknowledge and celebrate the achievements of our community in these areas but we would like to promote the view that we are also contributing to science and technology.

AFBE-UK would like to take a lead in addressing social issues faced by our youth. We specifically want to reverse certain stereotypes about black youth and raise awareness of engineering/science as a viable option for them.

We would also like to encourage professional excellence for people already in engineering.

RCA: Why do you think people have misperceptions about careers in Engineering?

NF:According to a study into public attitudes to and perceptions of engineering and engineers carried out for the Royal Academy of Engineering and reported by Building (UK’s first construction magazine) there is a limited awareness and understanding of engineering and engineers. In the report of the study published in September 2007, seven out of 10 respondents interviewed found it difficult to define what an engineer is.

For many years, engineering has been perceived as a ‘male dominated’ profession and that most engineers were either technicians, mechanics, plumbers’ and at best construction workers. This in effect has discouraged many young bright people from taking up a career in engineering.

Some young people think that it is a profession that requires studying for many years to qualify for and don’t realise that they can start up with apprenticeships in engineering.

However there are also a portion of people who have studied engineering up to university level and do not pursue a career in engineering because they do not feel that the engineering industry is able to afford them the financial rewards that other city jobs can.

At a careers event that AFBE-UK attended at Tanaka Business school, quite a few of the university students felt that engineering companies did not offer them engaging and motivating internship programs and they could not see a career in engineering as an option after their university education.


RCA: How is the AFBE-UK changing mindsets within Black communities about the potential and rewards of careers in Engineering?

NF: AFBE-UK continues to find ways for members of the public to participate directly in our activities by organising events that will be of interest the society as a whole.

AFBE-UK plans to sponsor innovative programs in aid of BAME communities and introduce the public to engineers within their community. We organise seminars on environmental and social issues, Talks on community development, debates and networking parties.

We are also due to launch our Making Engineering Hot! Campaign in August 2007.

The campaign run by AFBE-UK will work with a wide range of delivery and support organisations that have already begun work on making engineering a viable career choice for people from Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds.

The campaign activities will engage young pupils in schools, colleges and universities students to the prospects of engineering as a career choice. These activities will focus on inspiring young BAME people through

  • Role models
  • Sponsoring science related taster courses for young people(Year 8 and 9 pupils)
  • Organising careers days and events
  • University surveys and CV clinics,
  • Awards in recognition of success stories in engineering or leadership.

The campaign will also involve activities that raise awareness about how employers can provide more engaging engineering internship programmes for young people that may be interested in the engineering industry.

We also aim to provide mentoring not only for young black people interested in pursuing an engineering/technological/science based career.

This month, we have been invited to a reception hosted by the South African High Commissioner in connection with a program on Infrastructure in Africa.

The reception organised and hosted for AFBE-UK by the South African High commissioner Ms Lindiwe Mabuza on the 30th May 2008 at the South African High Commission. The program encourages a joined-up approach to meet Africa’s urgent infrastructure needs to support economic growth across the continent

The reception will be attended and hosted by the South African High commissioner, other members of the diplomatic core in the UK and members of AFBE-UK.

RCA: The Association recently held an event – ‘Young, Gifted and Black and in Business’. What were your objectives behind the event?

One of our main objectives at AFBE-UK is to promote business opportunities for black engineers and to encourage budding black entrepreneurs.


Young, Gifted and Black and in Business’ was held to bring together a group of successful young entrepreneurs that run their own businesses and other African/Caribbean professionals. The objective of the event was to showcase young and innovative entrepreneurs, share in their experience and empower others into business creation. It was also organized as a networking.

The event took place on 26th of April with a panel of successful entrepreneurs including Business/life coach and motivational speaker Rasheed Ogunlaru, the owner of an Estate Agency Joseph Naggie, the managing director of a PR company Bieneosa Ebite, and the director of an engineering Energy company, Akome Energy Build. The summary of the panel discussions was made by Passion TV presenter Day Olomu Panelists talked about why they had started up their businesses and challenges they had faced. The turn out was very good with an array of professionals from a variety of businesses and industries. There were also university students who were keen to hear and learn from others experiences. The networking session was a good time to talk to panelists on one on one basis. Overall, the feedback received from all who were in attendance was very positive and most people felt said they felt inspired to start up their businesses. In my opinion, a lot needs to be done in terms of giving people information and the necessary tools about important issues affecting our community growth. AFBE-UK focus is on business, social and community development if we intend to make progress.

In a short introduction at the start of the event, I highlighted the need for 'Rebranding the black community' and the need for more black owned businesses especially in areas of science and technology.

RCA: What are the benefits for your Association’s members?

NF: At AFBE-UK we take professional development very seriously and hence we are looking to be able to work with other professional bodies (engineering and others) and provide the necessary resources to help our members achieve goals that they have set out for themselves by organizing events that specifically cater to them.


The benefits for membership include a support network/ forum where members can discuss challenges they face at work through our in house mentoring program, members will be able to be mentored by people with many more years of experience in industry or have informal chats with more senior engineer, researchers, experts in specific engineering fields and even members working in non-engineering based roles.

Student members will also be able to make an informed choice when choosing a career path.

We also have a 3 tier mentoring program where the association will be mentored by community leaders who will act in an advisory role to association members. Members will in turn mentor community youth. We are presently encouraging our members to enroll on mentoring courses within their communities.

The business links and potentially the development of a business portal where more experienced engineers and contractors can subscribe and advertise their skills is among the benefits of membership.

We have extensive resources in the form of skill, information and years of industrial experience within our team.

The networking opportunities, the potential to mentor younger engineers and to be mentored, basically all the possibilities that one needs to advance in one's career exist within this team of engineers.

RCA: How do you sustain the Association financially?

NF:So far our projects have been funded by our members but we are looking to raise our profile and get support from other funding bodies and organisations.

RCA: How can people find out more about your work?

NF:To find out information about AFBE-UK you can look on our website at www.afbe.org.uk

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