The Access Project
By Chris Hallam, Assistant Engineer
STEM outreach activity is growing from strength to strength as employers are increasingly recognising the importance of engaging with potential young engineers and planners from an early age in order to help reduce the skills shortage in our industry. At PBA we also see STEM activity as a great way of developing staff and working more closely with our local communities.
One of the ways in which we do this is through The Access Project which PBA has taken part in for a few years now, with involvement really starting to gain momentum in the last year. The Access Project is a charity whose mission it is to combat educational inequality and help motivated students access top universities. Unfortunately, young people from disadvantaged backgrounds are six times less likely to attend a top university than their more affluent peers. In response to this, The Access Project works with high potential students from poorer areas providing in-school support and one-to-one tuition.
The students who work with The Access Project are assigned a dedicated university mentor, who helps them understand the pathways to higher education, along with the administrative side of applying to university. They are also paired with a dedicated academic tutor, for an hour a week, who gives targeted tuition on a subject of their choice. The academic focus provided by these tuition sessions equates to an extra nine months of progress. Importantly, these sessions are completely free of charge.
There are currently five students being regularly tutored in the London office, with more expected to start from September. For the last few summers, we’ve had several students join our team for a two-week work experience placement, and a further three are due to start in the coming weeks.
My personal experience has, so far, been incredibly rewarding. My tutee, Ronaldo, arrives at the office every Tuesday at 4.30pm for tuition in GCSE physics. Even at the end of a stressful day, it’s rarely difficult to find the enthusiasm to help a dedicated and hardworking student progress with their education. We cover everything from electrical circuits, alien life, nuclear fusion, terminal velocity and medical radiation. There are topics that, as a structural engineer I am happy with, and others that require a bit more preparation.
I have only been tutoring since November but I have seen Ronaldo really progress; having a personal tutor who focuses on the topics you choose, and who stays at your pace is invaluable to your learning. This has been a great experience for me too, volunteering as a tutor enables me to use my skills and knowledge to help a student who otherwise wouldn’t receive any. I’ve improved my ability to explain complex concepts in simple terms, and the use of sketches to aid with explanations.
Motivated students should have every opportunity to progress their learning and education, regardless of their background. The Access Project is doing brilliant work, and has ambitions to expand. If you’d like to get involved, please don’t hesitate to contact me.