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Leeds and Yorkshire businesses come together to support parents and carers return to STEM jobs

Businesses from across Leeds and Yorkshire have come together to support parents and carers return to STEM jobs.

Local employers and representatives from STEM industry groups attended the STEM ReCharge Employer Insight Event on Monday 24 April at Bruntwood Scitech in Leeds, prior to the Leeds Digital Festival. Attendees gained insight into how they can access the untapped talent pool of STEM professionals on career break and enable more tech and engineering professionals back to work.

The event was organised by Women Returners and STEM Returners, two leading organisations in the UK in STEM returner programmes, as part of the STEM ReCharge project funded by the Government Equality Hub.

At the event, local STEM employers, Amey Consulting, Cummins Inc and FDM Group, shared their experiences of successfully hiring and supporting returners and talked about the benefits to their organisations. Julianne Miles, CEO and Co-Founder of Women Returners and Claire Goodall, EDI Lead at STEM Returners also shared their expertise, having enabled more than 700 professionals to return to the sector.

The event was supported by Leeds City Council. Cllr Jonathan Pryor, Executive Member for Economy, Culture and Education said: “We’re delighted to support Women Returners. There’s a wealth of talent waiting to be harnessed by employers and a wealth of opportunity out there for people who worked in tech and engineering roles before taking a career break. By gearing programmes towards returners employers can access skilled talent for mid-level roles, improve diversity and strengthen their teams. Returners can boost their household income and put their skills and experience into practice in the workplace.”

Feedback from the event was very positive with one attendee saying: “Very good event. Excellent speakers. First experience of hiring returners. Looking forward to undertaking the training.”

The STEM ReCharge team have also hosted events this week in Liverpool and Birmingham. A virtual Insight Event will be held in early June for employers in the North of England and the Midlands who were unable to attend in-person.

Free online Career Returners Recruitment and Inclusion Training will be held in the summer, for which registration is open now, followed by ongoing support for employers until mid-2024.

STEM ReCharge, funded by the Government Equality Hub, is being rolled out across the Midlands and 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.

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 break 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.

As well as supporting businesses, STEM ReCharge will provide return to work career coaching, job skills training and sector-specific upskilling and mentoring to 100 individuals with tech or engineering experience based in the North and the Midlands. The Spring cohort is already full and applications will open in July for the Autumn cohort.

Julianne Miles, CEO of Women Returners, said: “We were delighted to see so many businesses from across Leeds and Yorkshire come to the event and engage with us. Over the last 9 years, I have seen the multiple challenges parents and carers face when trying to return to professional roles after a long career break. Working together with local employers, we would like to multiply the supported routes back to STEM roles for all career returners in the region.”

Natalie Desty, Director of STEM Returners, added: “We’d like to thank everyone who participated in the event. More conversations are needed to enhance working practices, so people are not penalised for their career break. By partnering with industry and Government will can make vital changes in STEM recruitment practices, to help those who are finding it challenging to return to the sector.”

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Leeds and Yorkshire businesses come together to support parents and carers return to STEM jobs

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2. Returner case studies are available here, and here 3. More information about STEM ReCharge can be found at 4. 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 170 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 5. 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 provide support for the candidate in advice, career coaching, networking opportunities and mentoring. All of the candidates going through the programme will 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 6. 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 For more information, please contact [email protected]

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