Engineers in Hampshire have been given a huge boost with the return of an award-winning recruitment scheme at BAE Systems in Portsmouth.
The defence and security giants have once again committed to inclusive recruitment with another set of placements in partnership with STEM Returners.
The firm, based in Lyndhurst, helps engineers looking to return to work following a career break – along with candidates who face barriers such as unconscious bias when applying through traditional CV screening.
Outdated methods used by much of the industry when searching for new talent rule out a large number of talented engineers, in particular those from diverse backgrounds.
Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) engineers are one of the groups disproportionately affected by these recruitment methods. With 26% of all UK domiciled engineering graduates coming from a BAME background, only 7.8% of those go on to find full-time employment in STEM. These same issues are faced by women, only one in ten engineering positions in the UK are held by those who identify as female.
STEM Returners however is by its nature an organically diverse initiative. By focussing on replacing the outdated recruitment techniques that prevent industry diversity, the programme removes the barriers these groups face and allows them to provide value to companies that run the ‘returnship’ schemes.
So far, 46% of all those returned by the programme are female and over one third are from a black or ethnically diverse background. Recently the programme was recognised for its success in workplace inclusivity by the Maritime UK authority, scooping the ‘Diversity Category’ at the organisations’ annual award ceremonies in Plymouth.
With the skills gap facing the UK STEM sectors costing businesses an estimated £1.3 billion, the programme can provide talented engineers for niche and often hard to fill positions, as well as making workplaces more inclusive.
While no official figures are available of women returning to engineering after a mid-career break, the UK’s Women in Engineering Society estimate up to 20,000 qualified female engineers could potentially fill many job vacancies after career breaks.
BAE Systems’ pilot programme in 2019 and a subsequent scheme in 2020 saw 96% of those who joined being retained in permanent positions.
The opportunities are also on offer to those people who want to transfer jobs to work in engineering but lack the relevant work experience. It also provides engineers with a chance to transfer to a different discipline if they are looking for a career change.
“There are lots of initiatives to cater to the next generation of STEM workers, but the STEM Returners programme is aimed specifically at those wishing to go back to engineering mid-career, “said Natalie Desty, director of STEM Returners.
Following the 12-week programme, all returners who take part will have the opportunity to gain a full-time position with BAE Systems.
Haley Storey found an advert for a STEM Returners programme with BAE Systems and secured a full-time role following her placement – almost 17 years after her last engineering job.
“I was temping as an administrator in the aerospace industry when, one lunchtime, I read about the STEM Returner scheme at BAE Systems. I’d started the temporary job as a way to earn more money for Christmas but had stayed on for more than a year.”
“The STEM Returners scheme seemed to be directed at people just like me – someone who had previously been in a technical job but who lacked the confidence and recent experience to apply for engineering roles now. It was a chance to work alongside an experienced engineer to see if I was suitable for the job. In a normal situation, my CV would probably not have made the first round.”
Things moved fast from that moment as Haley was invited to join the 12-week paid programme:
“I was surprised to receive a phone call as quickly as I did, and I was invited to visit the naval base to meet my potential manager and members of the team. I also had a personalised tour of the Queen Elizabeth carrier.”
“This was a definite highlight and generated the excitement to give me that push to say yes when I was accepted onto the scheme to work on a Type 45 Destroyer. It was a big step though – I was almost 50 and there wasn’t a guaranteed job at the end of it.”
“Straight away I was allocated a ‘buddy’, someone who I could speak to regularly about my experience and any issues. I still talk to her now and value the fact that somebody is looking out for me.”
“Gradually I started to come on-site more often until I was in every day. I took whatever opportunity there was to go onboard and learn as much as I could while also trying to get to grips with the workings of a large organisation. I admit I found it overwhelming, but I carried on learning whatever I could, picking up new information every day.”
“The day before my 50th birthday, I was offered a permanent position as a Project Engineer on HMS Duncan’s upkeep working with the Project Engineering Manager resolving engineering queries. I accepted the job and am now following a 12-month development plan.”
“Without any relevant experience, everything has been new to me, but my manager and the team have been extremely supportive. I was really surprised recently to have won a Team Portsmouth Engineering Award for Trainee Engineer of the Year. This has given me the confidence in knowing I made the right decision and that it’s never too late to start again.”