Comment: How Making Spaces is paving the way for a greater diversity in STEM

Tim Slingsby, director of skills and education at Lloyd’s Register Foundation explains how a new initiative is striving to bridge the inclusion gap in STEM.

Making Spaces

Finding the next generation of STEM experts

Earlier this year, a report from the House of Commons’ Science and Technology Committee – aptly named ‘Diversity and inclusion in STEM’– found that opportunities to acquire the necessary STEM skills ‘are not equally distributed across society’[1].

Too many people still feel like a career in STEM is out of reach for them – either because of the many barriers and costs, or because STEM is taught and represented in ways that make them feel disconnected from the subject. By working with Making Spaces, our aim is to empower young people from marginalised communities through science, technology and engineering – making STEM a vehicle that can help them to achieve what they want in their lives.

The Making Spaces project, led by UCL Professor Louise Archer, and entirely funded by Lloyd’s Register Foundation, was launched in 2020. Together, we aim to tackle inequity in STEM, working in partnership with practitioners to make it more welcoming and engaging for a traditionally marginalised young audience.

The importance of putting hands-on learning at the centre of all STEM training

The Making Spaces initiative, which started as a partnership with three UK makerspaces (community hands-on workshops) – has expanded internationally in 2022. As part of its second phase, the project now works with seven makerspaces across five countries, including sites in London, New York, Kathmandu, and Gaza to reach a wide range of young people.

At the core of the project is hands-on learning – with or without tools – as well as collaborative knowledge sharing, fostering a sense of community within each makerspace.

A key pillar of the project is fostering diversity in STEM, whose professional spheres remain predominantly white, male and middle-class

As such, each of the partner makerspaces has its own specialism and expertise and offers valuable opportunities to young people in their local areas. In Manchester, the virtual makerspace is helping young people to learn more about IT and coding skills. In others, they may have a chance to develop skills in engineering, construction, digital technology, robotics or electronics, using high tech equipment such as 3D printers and laser cutters in addition to traditional tools.

Attendants are encouraged to work together and, as well as developing their own skills and understanding of STEM, to develop social and environmental solutions for their communities.

Fairness and equity – the key drivers of solving the STEM skills shortage

A key pillar of the project is fostering diversity in STEM, whose professional spheres remain predominantly white, male and middle-class, especially in the UK. By doing so, the initiative aims to contribute to address the global skills shortage in a way that pertains to equity and fairness.

Engineering UK found that while ethnic diversity has increased (from 7.6 per cent in 2012 to 11.4 per cent in 2021) as well as the proportion of women (from 10.5 per cent to 16.5 per cent), both demographics remain significantly underrepresented across the engineering sector[2]. Similarly, a separate analysis, published in 2018, revealed that just 24 per cent[3] of those working in engineering come from low socio-economic backgrounds.

There’s an urgent need for problem solvers across the world, especially in areas where more infrastructure is required to support overall development.

Solving these challenges, while promoting the highest possible safety standards is at the heart of our skills and education programmes here at Lloyd’s Register Foundation, and this is why we’re proud to be funding the Making Spaces project. Beyond the numbers, we believe the mission to foster equity and diversity is just as crucial when it comes to transforming the STEM landscape for years to come.

Rebuilding the connection between STEM learning and students

There’s no ‘one size fits all’ approach to fostering diversity and equity in STEM – and we believe the way STEM is taught in the UK especially needs to be overhauled.

It’s up to the system to adapt, not young people. The way STEM is taught and promoted remains too narrow. For example, forcing students to specialise early on, may no longer be fit for purpose.

There’s no shortage of interest in STEM, but rather a disconnect; the young people we speak to have been discouraged from pursuing technical and scientific studies early on, mainly because of the culture of STEM which makes it feel unwelcome.

Making Spaces is all about bridging this gap, going beyond the concepts and skills to focus on what’s essential – making STEM more inclusive and relatable for a diverse audience. We’ve seen many young people who never felt that a career in engineering, coding or science in general was an option at all, but who now leave these makerspaces with a renewed confidence and life options.

We’re proud to be supporting Making Spaces. These kinds of initiatives are deconstructing established learning principles and creating more inclusive learning contexts that can unlock STEM futures for many more young people. Now, it’s essential for practitioners, engineers and scientists to start building their legacies. Perception can and must change, and that starts by changing STEM teaching and learning cultures and practices. More importantly, they must also consider campaigning for a flexible approach to learning and championing initiatives such as Making Spaces.

Click here to find out more about the Making Spaces initiative.

Tim Slingsby, director of skills and education at Lloyd’s Register Foundation 


[1] ‘Diversity and inclusion in STEM’, House of Commons’ Science and Technology Committee,

2 ‘Trends in the engineering workforce’, Engineering UK,

3 ‘Social mobility in engineering’, Engineering UK,