RESPONSIBILITY FOR getting more ethnic minorities into civil engineering rests with the ICE, Labour MP Diane Abbott said recently.
A long standing campaigner for equal opportunities, Abbott told senior ICE figures that attracting more minorities into engineering requires a fundamental culture change.
'It's all about attitudes and government cannot do that, ' said Abbott. 'You have to start within the Institution.'
Abbott, speaking at a networking meeting for ethnic minorities hosted by the ICE's equal opportunities forum ICEFLOE, stressed that the business case for diversity in engineering is inarguable. 'London is a global city. So it makes every bit of sense to draw from the widest selection of people available.
'Your clients from the UK and overseas expect you to show diversity, or you simply won't look 21st century.'
A Construction Industry Training Board report in 1998 put the black and Asian percentage of the construction workforce at 1.9%, against 6.4% of the working population as a whole.
Overturning this disparity will clearly not happen overnight, and Abbott sees a committed liaison with schools as the best way to begin. 'But do it with commitment, and to do it in a way that is exciting.'
ICE vice president Haro Bedelian - Cyprus born but with Armenian parents - also recognised the scale of the fight ahead in attracting young engineers as well as those from ethnic backgrounds.
'The construction industry is one that rewards hard work, regardless of origin, ' said Bedelian, a former Balfour Beatty group managing director.
'I have met no barriers in my career and have worked with many black and Asian colleagues. There are really no impediments.
'The CITB figures are a measure of the challenge in front of us, ' he said. ICEFLOE is one of the ways we can do that.'