The STEM Returners programme has successfully helped 400 professionals return to employment after a career break.
STEM Returners, based near Southampton, works with leading STEM organisations to run short-term paid employment placements for candidates who have been out of work for a period of time.
It was founded by Natalie Desty in 2017 after she saw how hard it was for STEM professionals to return to work with a gap on their CV.
Natalie said: “After working in recruitment for many years, I could see how hard it was for STEM professionals who had been out of employment to re-enter their profession. I wanted to provide an inclusive way back for those talented people who were being let down by outdated recruitment methods and bias that prevent them from getting an interview, let alone being offered the role.”
Natalie established a small pilot returners programme with BAE Systems, which saw a group of returners take part in a paid placement for 12 weeks. It was a great success for both the returners and BAE Systems, and since then internationally renowned firms from the engineering, aerospace, renewables, tech and construction sectors have all launched returners programmes across the UK and Ireland.
Now, 400 professionals have returned to work thanks to the programme.
One of those professionals is Renu Amin, who is now working as a Mechanical Design Engineer at Cyclife Aquila Nuclear near Winchester.
Renu graduated with a mechanical engineering degree in 2006 and then worked as a senior mechanical design engineer with one of the shipyards in India before taking a career break to raise her newborn son seven years ago. But when she wanted to return to work, she found it an uphill struggle.
“I found returning to the technical workforce very hard because of my career break,” she said. “A little break shouldn’t mean the end of your career – but the STEM Returners programme helped me to restart and provided an opportunity to brush up my skills and develop new ones as well to bridge the career gap.”
Natalie added: “We are extremely proud to place 400 STEM professionals on programmes with some of the world’s leading firms across the UK. There is a misconception that a career break leads to a deterioration of skills and knowledge but that could not be further from the truth. STEM organisations are clearly missing a major opportunity to get highly skilled, talented and diverse individuals back into the industry and need to do more to improve their practices and challenge recruitment bias in the system. If they do this, the industry will be a more inclusive place that will enable more people to thrive.”
Every year, STEM Returners runs the STEM Returners Index, an annual survey to understand STEM professionals’ experiences of trying to re-enter the sector after a career break. The 2023 STEM Returners Index is open to all STEM professions who have had a gap in their career or who are attempting to return to work or who have recently returned to work and will enable STEM Returners to further understand the barriers people face, track the progress UK STEM industries are making, and shine a light on the change needed to create fair opportunities for all.
The 2023 STEM Returners Index will be open until 31 July and is available at https://online1.snapsurveys.com/STEM-Returners-Index-2023.