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A blog from Nigel Fine, IET Chief Executive and Secretary

Empty classrooms have highlighted the growing problem of digital poverty and the widening gap it creates for the opportunities of our young people, particularly in technical and practical subjects.

Digital poverty is not a new term or a new issue, but the pandemic has exacerbated the negative impact it is having for so many.

I am convinced that the IET has an important role in trying to stop this deepening inequality facing many of our young people.

The challenge of tackling digital poverty is too large for the IET alone but one of our greatest strengths is our ability to bring all the right people together in the same room, even if it is a virtual one.

We have partnered with Digital Access for All (DAFA) to establish an alliance to tackle this challenge.

We are bringing together organisations such as Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), Government departments and industry to form the Digital Poverty Alliance (DPA).

Our aim is to end digital poverty, particularly for disadvantaged children over the next 5-10 years.

It is a massive ambition, but I believe we owe it to our young generation to do all we can to try and solve this unfair and unjust issue.

I am delighted that we are already gaining momentum to tackle the challenge, including the recent announcement of Dixons Carphone pledging £1m and becoming a founding partner of the Alliance.

We have continued to help our members and other parents with the challenges faced by home-schooling their children.

Last year, our free resources were downloaded by parents and teachers over 50,000 times.

This year these resources, as well as some practical support and help, continue to be available on our Education website for Primary (age 4-10) and Secondary (age 11-16) children.

We have had great feedback from parents, particularly about the STEM-related experiments that you can carry out at home and inspire the young people in your life to help us engineer a better world.

I have been sharing links with parents who I know and would urge others to do the same.

Over the last year, we have seen a remarkable uptake in our Professional Registrations.

More people than ever have been contacting our teams to ask how they go about completing the process.

Every weekday at 12noon (GMT) our team run webinars for those interested in Professional Registration.

These provide an opportunity to ask questions whilst their application is underway or when they are considering taking the next step to becoming Professionally Registered.

As part of our commitment to our members’ professional development, we also run a Competence Development Workshop every Friday at 1pm (GMT).

In this current climate, we know it can be very difficult for apprentices, so we are providing more support for those applying for Engineering Technician status in the form of another weekly workshop, held every Wednesday at 11am (GMT).

These are free to attend and form part of our ongoing commitment to help members in these challenging times.

They provide a good opportunity to connect, meet new people and build new networks. Please visit our webinars hub for more details.

We have seen many people using their time in recent lockdowns to build their expertise.

There is a vast amount of knowledge at your fingertips with over fifty technical webinars available to watch on-demand.

They cover a variety of topics such as healthcare, transport and communications.

I would recommend you register to attend our forthcoming webinars to help keep up-to-date with current engineering conversations.

Our team in India has been busy hosting Digital Conversations in recent months, which are now available on the IET India website and cover topics related to mobility, technology and working in a digital world.

The team has had over 140 global speakers involved in the series, with 30 webinars available to view on-demand.

To support our members’ ongoing learning and development, it is important to us that you can still use our library resources, even in a virtual world.

Our Library and Archives team has created reading lists to help your research and highlight the wide range of resources available.

The lists focus on a variety of topics from Electric Vehicles and Renewable Energy to Career Development. For further information visit:

For those UK engineers and technicians working in the EU, as well as EU engineers working in the UK, we have updated our information and guidance following the UK’s withdrawal.

We have included a Question and Answer section on our website to help you with your Brexit queries.

Despite these challenging times, our 150th-anniversary celebrations provide the perfect opportunity for us to make a lasting impact, challenge misconceptions and change the way society often sees engineering and technology.

You may remember from my last blog that we have formed an exciting new partnership with the Fashion Innovation Agency and the London College of Fashion, University of the Arts London (UAL).

We want to reach new audiences and highlight the important role of engineering and technology in fashion.

In January, we launched the Fashion District Innovation Challenge Prize.

We are bringing together engineers and fashion designers to find innovative solutions to current industry issues, such as using more sustainable materials or creating new technologies.

Find out more or submit an entry.

Entries close on 29 March.

Our Children’s Fiction competition with Chicken House Books and the Times newspaper, in which we are looking for budding authors who celebrate Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths, is open for entries until 14 May.

We are looking for inspiring fictional stories about a Difference Maker who is engineering a better world.

I hope you all take the opportunity to get involved with our 150th-anniversary celebrations.

We still have lots planned for the remainder of this year, with more exciting announcements coming in the next few weeks. 

We recently held our Young Woman Engineer of the Year awards, delayed from December in the hope that we could hold it in person.

The event, held virtually, was as enjoyable and uplifting as always, with a surprise message from astronaut Tim Peake.

A big congratulations to the finalists who, together with our President Danielle George and Trustee Yewande Akinola, celebrated their achievements in a meeting with the UK’s Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Rt Hon. Rishi Sunak MP, a few days later to mark International Women’s Day.

The welfare of our members and your families is really important to us, particularly in these unprecedented times.

As well as the activities and services I have already mentioned, I would urge anyone who is requiring wellbeing support to contact Foothold, the IET’s benevolent fund, by emailing or phoning +44 (0)7923 257 08.

As always, I am really keen to hear about things you would like me to talk about in my future blogs, so if you have something you would like to know more about, please email me and I will try to include it.

Until my next blog, I hope you and your loved ones stay safe.

With the roll-out of vaccine programmes across the world, I am optimistic that this year will be much better than 2020.

With all best regards / Nigel