Hampshire's STEM Returners helps 400 professionals get back to work after career break
A programme run by a Hampshire business has helped 400 professionals in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) sector back to work in the UK following a career break.
STEM Returners, based near Southampton, was founded by Natalie Desty in 2017, after she identified the issue and then established a small pilot programme with BAE Systems, with returners taking part in a paid placement for 12 weeks.
"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," she said.
"I wanted to provide an inclusive way back for those talented people who were being let down by outdated recruitment methods and bias that prevent them from getting an interview, let alone being offered the role."
Desty added: "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."
Now, 400 professionals have returned to work thanks to the programme, including mechanical engineering graduate Renu Amin, who graduated in 2006 and is currently a mechanical design engineer at Cyclife Aquila Nuclear near Winchester.
Renu worked as a senior mechanical design engineer with a shipyard in India before taking a break to raise her son seven years ago. But she faced a struggle when she tried to rejoin the workforce.
"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," she said.
Alongside experience gained from the work placement, the STEM Returners project also provides support in advice, career coaching, networking opportunities and mentoring.
All candidates going through the programme also have the opportunity to restart their career in a permanent position at the end of it.
STEM Returners also runs the STEM Returners Index, an annual survey to understand STEM professionals’ experiences of trying to re-enter the sector after a career break.
This year's 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. It will be open until July 31 and is available HERE.