Engineers across the UK have been given the opportunity to break through the so-called ‘career break curse’ with UK defence and security giants BAE Systems.
The multinational firm has teamed up with the Hampshire based STEM Returners – An organisation who run programmes for engineers struggling to return to work.
The nationwide programme provides a new group of returners the opportunity to jump back into a career, starting in early 2020, and will provide roles in Glasgow, Bristol, Portsmouth and New Malden throughout the scheme’s duration.
The recruitment programme is being seen as an important step to help plug the skills gap facing the UK STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) sectors. The returners programme offers STEM workers a 12-week paid placement at the defence specialists at their site in Glasgow, with a focus on Maritime Engineering specific roles.
BAE Systems’ previous maritime returners programme saw a 100% success rate of participants being retained in permanent positions.
“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.
The programme also aims to reduce the gender gap in Engineering, with only 1 in 10 engineering posts in the industry currently held by women.
One returner who took part in a previous programme with BAE Systems in Glasgow was Gail Hughes. She found that despite having extensive qualifications and a PhD, the door was locked to her returning from a career break.
“I had 6 difficult pregnancies over 8 years, and I was very ill sometimes. When I was finally well enough to return to work, I was shocked to find out that nobody would give me an interview.”
“I’d done two degrees, including a PhD, and I’d become Chartered. I believed that I’d done what I was meant to do for the profession – it seemed very unfair that I was barred through no fault of my own.
“I also felt that I’d lost part of my identity – and that’s hard to live with.”
Gail eventually came into contact with the STEM Returners Programme who saw her career break as an asset to go alongside her skills and qualifications.
“STEM Returners provided an opportunity to do a work placement that could potentially lead to a permanent engineering role and I now have a permanent role as a Principal Engineer in the Research and Technology team at BAE Systems.”
“For employers, the Returners Programme is about finding able employees. Being back in engineering has given me back some of what I lost and that really matters too.”
Gail is just one of the female engineers STEM Returners have placed back into the industry, overall, the programme continues to buck national trends. 46% of the returner intake across all programmes are women, a vast improvement on the 12% of female engineers across the UK workforce.
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.
Dr Graham Farnell, the Engineering Director of BAE Systems Maritime, has embraced the benefits of the scheme ahead of the latest programme launch.
“Finding exceptional talent to help us deliver first class engineering and technical support to our customers is fundamental to our business.
“The work we do across the engineering disciplines to design, build, maintain and upgrade ships, and the support and equipment we provide to people, is absolutely vital in assisting the Royal Navy achieve its operational commitments on behalf of the UK across the globe.”