STEM Returners creates back to work opportunities for highly qualified and capable candidates who are looking to return to a meaningful role after a career break. Following a 12 week back to work programme all returners have the opportunity to secure a permanent position with the host company. This is how we measure our success, how many capable candidates are we returning to STEM who were otherwise lost to standard recruitment channels? I am delighted to share the story of Tom Shuttleworth, STEM Returner to permanent employee at DSTL.
Why did you become a STEM returner?
I took voluntary redundancy from my previous employment with the intention of retirement to sunnier climes, unfortunately the timing (May/June 2016) coincided with the vote to leave the EU and the fall in value of the £, thus putting our plans on hold. I then spent 2 years enjoying the fruits of my labours living off the earnings of my wife and catching up on all those things that I was “just too busy” to do. However the time came when I decided that since our plans were on hold I needed the company of others and a level of stimulation not available from daytime TV. I took a few no stress no challenge jobs to hopefully give me what was missing however it became obvious in a very short time that without a challenge the jobs were meaningless.
When I was offered a place on the open day to visit Dstl I jumped at it and was delighted with what I saw and heard and even more delighted when the offer of a placement came through.
What were you doing before?
Discounting the roles I had during my retirement my previous position was Head of Site (HoS – Larkhill) with QinetiQ. I managed a small team of Trials delivery staff (Trials Conducting Officers, Trials Planners, Safety Officer etc.), our primary role was facilitating and coordinating trials for MOD, including Dstl on several occasions, Prime Customers and other 3rd parties. As HoS I was responsible for the safe delivery of all trials conducted, HS&E of the facility, staff and visitors, licence holder for the explosives and firearms aspects, liaison with the MOD, DIO Range Authorities, booking range and other facilities etc.
Prior to this I held several positions within QinetiQ/DERA ranging from, Facilities Manager, Fleet Manager, Project Manager, Delivery Manager.
How did STEM Returners help?
Natalie and her team did everything possible to ensure I was kept informed at every stage from initial offer through to starting the placement and beyond. For all of the time I have been at Dstl I knew that should I need it support was only ever a phone call away. STEM returners even went as far as organising mentors for those of the cohort who wanted one.
Prior to starting the placement they facilitated a day long workshop geared at building confidence for people who had been out of work for a prolonged period or others who were looking at changing roles. The workshop also gave me the chance to meet the other returners who would make up the 1st cohort so that I would be able to spot a friendly face or have someone to chat with about the workplace and swap experiences in our varied roles.
Describe your role in the placement and how you have found the experience?
The placement role/s is varied and challenging, I am engaged with a colleague in producing a guide for MOD Project Managers in the management of Hazardous Substances and Restricted Materials – this has taken a great deal of research on my behalf to confirm that I understand the subject, which is outside my comfort zone, to ensure accurate and relevant guidance is given. My colleague, who is an SME in the field has been very supportive and encouraging throughout. The guide is at the final draft stage ready for internal review.
I have also been given the task of reviewing an external report commissioned by Dstl on behalf of DE&S covering a range of military vehicles (wheeled & tracked AFV/MBT) with the aim of recommending components for modification, redesign or alternative methods of repair (Additive Manufacture (AM)). This has included meeting with external stakeholders and other agencies. Following the review a presentation to DE&S is planned to map out the way forward. Again this task has required an amount of research on my part to understand the principals, advantages and disadvantages of AM in a military peacetime and wartime environment. As above the whole team have been fully supportive in this endeavour.
What was the end result?
I was offered a permanent position at a level higher than during my placement and earlier this week I signed my contract accepting the position
How has this changed your career?
I doubt if I would have ever been given the opportunity to work at Dstl having been out of the mainstream for so long. The thought of a full day of interviews and presentations would have been daunting having been unpractised for so long. The STEM returners route allows for a longer transition without the pressure of trying to prove your abilities in 1 day and it also gives the company the chance to gauge your abilities over a much wider range of roles and tailor any particular position to your strengths. STEM returners has given me the opportunity of a 2nd career to make of what I desire.
Would you recommend the programme?
Absolutely Yes especially to people who like myself thought STEM placements were only for those with higher degrees. Its surprising just how highly experience is valued.