Sheffield programme tackles engineering leadership skills gap

The Sheffield Engineering Leadership Academy (SELA sela-sheffield.org) is the first extracurricular leadership scheme by a UK university to cover all the engineering disciplines. Inspired by the acclaimed Gordon Leadership Programme at MIT, the two-year programme at The University of Sheffield’s Faculty of Engineering aims to address the UK skills gap in engineering by equipping graduates to take on leadership roles.

SELA Director, Professor Neil Hopkinson, explains: “The shortage of engineers in the UK is acknowledged as a real threat to our economy – but to plug the skills gap we also need engineers to lead successful projects and organisations much earlier in their careers. SELA aims to address this shortfall by providing a carefully selected and highly motivated group of students with specific challenges, experience and training – and our first cohort is raring to go.”

Eighteen second-year students undertaking Masters degrees in engineering at Sheffield have been chosen to be in the first SELA cohort. The applications were judged not purely on educational achievement, but on broader attributes, including technical skills, personal values and ambition, the ability to inspire others, flexibility, self-awareness, a willingness to improve and an ability to generate new ideas and put them into action.

Over the two years of the programme, which runs alongside their degree studies, the students will complete two group projects and two individual summer placements, as well as benefiting from mentoring, skills workshops, guest lectures and networking with a range of highly successful leaders from industry and academia. The first guest lecture in 2015 will be by Associate Structural Engineer at WSP, Roma Agrawal.

The programme also offers a fantastic opportunity for industry to get access to some of the UK’s most promising graduates, as Professor Hopkinson explains:

“Industry involvement is central to the programme, through the workshops, lectures, placements and mentoring,” he says. “We’re actively inviting major players in the engineering sector to get involved – both larger companies and high-profile SMEs. By joining the SELA community, companies will make contact with some of our brightest, most enterprising students and we believe the benefits will be mutual.”

The SELA launch comes as the University of Sheffield is investing heavily in engineering education, with a new £81million state-of-the-art building called the Diamond dedicated to teaching engineering. Due to open in September 2015, the Diamond will enable the Faculty to welcome 1600 additional engineering students and 400 additional engineering staff by 2020.