IET Foothold charity launches scheme for neurodiverse engineers
26 Oct 2022
Engineering charity Foothold has launched a programme aimed at the estimated 0.8 million-plus neurodiverse people working in the engineering sector.
Titled Engineering Neurodiverse Futures, the project aims to provide professional and personal support for people with a wide range of conditions including autism spectrum disorder, ADHD, dyslexia and dyspraxia, as well as those who care for them.
It will also offer advice to employers seeking advice with staff development and provide training advice within companies.
Individuals seeking diagnosis, help with living costs and financial grants to fund equipment will also be able to benefit from the initiative via a new online advice resource, the Differently Wired Hub.
Foothold CEO, Jane Petit, stated at the launch:
“Every day, many neurodiverse engineers face challenges and barriers which prevent them from accessing the opportunities that neurotypical people take for granted.
“In particular, we know that this leads significant numbers of students and apprentices to drop out of their courses – which has a knock-on effect for the entire engineering workforce."
Worldwide, as many as one in seven people show some form of neurodivergence, says Foothold, and a significant number have been identified in the engineering industry. And, with vacancies in the sector growing, staff retention and development has become a more urgent issue.
The charity said that research demonstrated those who received a diagnosis in adulthood, after the age of 21, were at significantly greater risk of psychiatric illness later in life; without formal diagnosis, accessing support from the health and social care systems is more difficult.
Stuart Redgard, a neurodivergent engineer ambassador for the programme who was only recently diagnosed, explained the scheme’s value:
“Having received a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder in May 2022 at the age of 55, I’ve often felt very alone during my neurodiversity journey. But knowing that I now have people I can turn to and who won’t judge me has made a world of difference,” he stated.
“That’s why this new support from Foothold gives me hope for neurodiverse engineers like me to be empowered to engineer their way and take advantage of the same opportunities as neurotypical community members – no matter what stage they’re at in their career.”
Utility company Neptune Energy was an early backer of the scheme and has given funding for the launch of the Foothold project.
CEO Pete Jones said the launch of the hub represented the culmination of years of work with the charity.
“This will help create more opportunities for neurodiverse engineers to demonstrate to employers the unique strengths and skills that they possess,” said Jones.
“Our support for Foothold also mirrors our own commitment to making equality, diversity and inclusion core to our business because we want Neptune to be a place that welcomes, respects and values everyone."
The Differently Wired Hub is freely accessible to anyone in the engineering community, whether they have been diagnosed, support a neurodivergent individual, or wish to learn more about neurodiversity.
To join for free and find out more about the Engineering Neurodiverse Futures programme, click here or view the video below.
Foothold has been supporting the engineering profession for 130 years, having developed from the benevolent fund set up by the Institution of Electrical Engineers’ precursor, the Institution of Engineering and Technology, in 1890.