Careers aren’t always perfectly mapped out journeys from one job or role to the next, often for the millions of STEM professionals in the UK, changes that affect career paths have a detrimental effect on our ’employability’ when screened against outdated recruitment methods.
For Haley Storey from Hampshire, she believed that her decision to take a career-break and start a family would stop her STEM career in its tracks.
“I left my role as a production manager in 2003 when I started my family. I then started up a small online business and ran that for the next 15 years.”
“I thought this meant that I had left my engineering days behind.”
“Without any recent experience, I didn’t think I would ever return to a technical job as my recent self-employed work was not relevant.”
However, Haley found herself returning to her dream career as quick as a flash when she discovered the STEM Returners Programme.
‘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 Returner 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.”
With things moving quickly, Haley was given the opportunity to integrate with her potential team, and experience the surroundings of the iconic dockyard in Portsmouth.
“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.” She said.
Coming from the historic naval city of Portsmouth, Haley secured a placement on the STEM Returners Programme at BAE Systems, working at the dockyard that makes the city famous. However, due to the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic, Haley’s start to life at BAE wasn’t a simple one.
“I joined in an unusual time. The pandemic had started, and I was unable to go on site at first. I spent a few weeks reading about subjects recommended to me by my managers.”
In hindsight, Haley was thankful to have an understanding host company in BAE Systems who made her return to engineering an inclusive one.
“Looking back, it was good to have this time as I wasn’t familiar with even some of the basic terms.
“Gradually I started to come on site more often until I was in every day. I took whatever opportunity there was to go on board 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.
Haley was even offered a mentor for her when she was finally permitted on site full-time, something she found extremely helpful as a returner.
“Straight away I was allocated a ‘buddy’, someone who I could speak to on a regular basis about my experience and any issues. I still talk to her now and value the fact that there is somebody looking out for me.”
On the eve of her birthday celebrations, Haley was gifted with opportunity to become a permanent member of the team at the defence and security giants.
“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 I am now following a twelve-month development plan. Everything has been new to me, but my manager and team have been extremely supportive.”
With a newfound self-assurance, Haley has even been nominated for engineering awards during her first few months as at BAE Systems.
“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!”
Looking back at her extended break from STEM, Haley didn’t expect to be given the chance to return, despite her previous experience and technical ability.
“Even though my career was important in my twenties and early thirties, it became less important when I started my family and I thought I would be stuck in average jobs until I retired. I never envisaged starting a new career at the age of 50.” She said.
“STEM Returners enabled my CV to be seen when otherwise it would have been left at the bottom of the pile.”
When asked whether she would recommend a STEM Returners Programme to those looking to return to the industry:
“Absolutely. I was scared to take the opportunity because I was lacking confidence, but I am glad I did.”