CEO and Co-Founder, Women Returners
Although corporate returner programmes have proliferated in the STEM sector over the last five years, opportunities have been concentrated in the South of England. A pilot project aims to address this imbalance.
STEM ReCharge is a pilot project funded by the Government Equality Hub and delivered by return-to-work experts Women Returners and STEM Returners. The project is working with returners and employers to help experienced professionals with tech and engineering backgrounds return to their careers after caring-related career breaks of a year or more.
Activity is being targeted at the Midlands and the North of England, after an analysis carried out by the project team found that from 2020 to 2022, there were 1.6 STEM returner programmes per million people in the Midlands, 2.3 in the North East and 2.5 in the North West, compared with 7.8 in London and 5.3 in the South West.
Supporting individuals to return
Returning to work after a long break as a parent or carer can be daunting and dispiriting. STEM ReCharge is providing a comprehensive free-of-charge Return-to-Work Support Programme for 100 returners with tech and engineering backgrounds in the target regions. This includes career coaching, job skills training, mentoring and a sector knowledge refresh week. The May cohort filled quickly, with 86% women and 72% from ethnic minority backgrounds. The October cohort opens for applications in July.
Returning to work after a long break as a parent
or carer can be daunting and dispiriting.
Lowering recruitment barriers
Supporting returners alone is not enough. STEM candidates regularly encounter major bias (conscious and unconscious) in their job search. Their CVs are typically screened out in mainstream recruitment for lack of recent experience. Even once employers recognise they are missing out on a high-calibre talent pool, they can struggle to know how to find, assess and support returners back into professional roles.
STEM ReCharge is dismantling these barriers, by offering free Career Returners Recruitment and Inclusion Training for employers. Online modules run from late June to mid-July, followed by ongoing monthly support sessions until mid-2023.
Enthusiasm to target and support returner candidates has already been built at Employer Insight Events run in Leeds, Liverpool and Birmingham in April. Panels of STEM employers including Amey Consulting, BT, Cummins, Next and The Very Group compellingly shared their experiences of the challenges and rewards of hiring returners with audiences of local organisations.
As one panellist sums it up: “Not only are you getting access to a phenomenal cohort of candidates, you are also building an inclusive culture.”