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Government-funded support to help parents and carers return to STEM now available

Parents and carers in the Midlands and the North of England trying to return to STEM industries after a career break can now apply for a free-of-charge Government programme delivered by return to work experts Women Returners and STEM Returners.

The STEM ReCharge initiative, launched and funded by the Government Equality Hub, will provide return to work career coaching, job skills training and sector-specific upskilling and mentoring to returners with tech or engineering experience.

Employers in the Midlands and the North of England can also benefit from the free-of-charge training and support to enable them to better recruit and retain this talent pool who are so often overlooked.

Employer Insight Events will also take place in Leeds (24 April) Liverpool (25 April) and Birmingham (26 April), where local organisations can find out more about the training and learn from the experience of Women Returners and STEM Returners, together with successful returner employers and returners. The events are being supported by local authorities and business leaders.

Julianne Miles, CEO of Women Returners, said: “Over the last nine years, we have seen the multiple challenges parents and carers face when trying to return to professional roles after a long career break. More support is needed around the UK, but particularly in the Midlands and the North. Working together with local employers, we can create more supported routes back to work for parents and carers and continue to dismantle the career break penalty that is so evident in STEM.”

Natalie Desty, Director of STEM Returners, said: “As an industry, we need to do more to increase the opportunity for returners in STEM and lower the barriers they face when they try to resume their careers. We would like to encourage returners and employers to take advantage of this free programme and work together to help more parents and carers return to work.”

There are currently around 75,000 people (the majority women) who are economically inactive due to caring responsibilities in the UK, who had a STEM occupation before their career and who would like to return to work in the future, according to government figures. Additionally, many more professionals are working well below their skills levels around their family. These talented professionals face an uphill battle when trying to get back to professional work, with a range of challenges from lack of self-confidence to widespread recruiter bias against people with a gap on their CV.

The STEM ReCharge coaching and job skills programme will address practical and psychological barriers, providing a range of support including rebuilding confidence, balancing work and caring, writing a back to work CV and honing interview skills.

Participants will then receive 1:1 mentoring for a tech or engineering mentor, and an opportunity to attend a tech or engineering ReFresh Week with updating sessions from industry experts to prepare them for interviews. Small group sessions will encourage motivating return-to-work support networks. There will be follow-on support with finding suitable work opportunities and reintegrating into the workforce.

STEM ReCharge is being rolled out in the Midlands and the North of England after analysis carried out by Women Returners and STEM Returners showed these areas have far fewer returner programmes than southern areas. From 2020 to 2022 there were 1.6 returner programmes per million people in the Midlands, 2.3 programmes in the North East and Yorkshire and 2.5 programmes in the North West, compared with 7.8 programmes in London and 5.3 programmes in the South West.

Women Returners and STEM Returners are the two leading organisations in the UK in STEM returner programmes and supportive returner network communities. More than 600 experienced STEM professionals have returned to work through their returner programmes.

Minister for Women, Maria Caulfield MP, said: “STEM is one of the fastest growing industries and a big booster for the economy. However there is a shortage in STEM employees and 75,000 STEM returners who want to get back to work.

“Women Returners and STEM Returners are fantastic organisations who will support returners and employers. I urge employers to take up this opportunity to benefit from the talents and experience of tried-and-tested STEM professionals.”

Employer events will take place in :

LEEDS: Monday 24 April, 0930 to 1100, Bruntwood Scitech, Platform, New Station St, Leeds LS1 4JB. Supported by Leeds City Council.

LIVERPOOL: Tuesday 25 April, 0930 to 1100, The Women’s Organisation, 54 St James St, Liverpool L1 0AB. Supported by the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority.

BIRMINGHAM: Wednesday 26 April, 0930 to 1100, Birmingham City Centre location TBC. Supported by the West Midlands Combined Authority.


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Women Returners is a purpose-led coaching, network and consulting organisation which specialises in enabling experienced professionals to return to work after an extended career break. A social business, they run the free Women Returners Professional Network providing advice and support to over 8,000 members. Women Returners’ mission is to remove the Career Break Penalty by making career breaks a normal part of a 40-to-50 year career. Since pioneering returnships in the UK in 2014, Women Returners has partnered with over 150 leading employers across sectors to create supported bridges back to mid to senior level roles, and now works globally. Through specialist consultancy, training and coaching services, Women Returners partners with organisations to design, promote and deliver best practice returner programmes. They created Career Returners Coaching and the Supported Hiring Returner Programme concept to support returners directly into permanent roles. In 2018-19, Women Returners co-wrote the Returner Programmes: Best Practice Guidelines for Employers and the Toolkit for Returners for the UK Government. In 2021-23, Women Returners supported 150+ women through Career Boost, a return to work support and mentoring programme funded by the Scottish Government. Women Returners also acts as a voice and an advocate for returning professionals in the media and public bodies. CEO and Co-Founder, Julianne Miles, was awarded an MBE for Services to Business and Equality in the Queen’s Birthday Honours 2019, recognising her role in changing the landscape for returning professionals. Twitter @womenreturners Facebook @WRPNetwork LinkedIn @womenreturners Instagram @womenreturners STEM Returners, returns highly qualified and experienced STEM professionals after a career break by working with employers who share the common objective of increasing diversity in STEM and creating a sector where everyone feels valued, supported and included. The STEM Returners project facilitates paid short-term employment placements for professionals returning to work after a career break. Alongside the experience gained from the work placement, the STEM Returners project will also provide support for the candidate in advice, career coaching, networking opportunities and mentoring. All of the candidates going through the programme will also have the opportunity to restart their career in a permanent position at the end of the programme. This project is co-supported by the Institute of Marine Engineering, Science and Technology and the Women’s Engineering Society. STEM Returners was awarded the Maritime UK Diversity Award in 2020, the Diversity in Engineering Award by Enginuity in March 2021, and Best Returnship Programme by the Women in Tech Employer Awards in May 2022. In September 2021, Natalie Desty (Director) was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Engineering by Southampton Solent University to recognise her work in increasing diversity in STEM. STEM Returners is committed to uphold the Armed Forces Covenant and support the Armed Forces Community. LinkedIn: @ReturnToSTEM Facebook: @STEMReturners Twitter: @ReturnToSTEM Government guidance for those looking to return to work following a career break, and information for employers wanting to implement a returners programme at their organisation can be found here

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