Kemi Badenoch MP, above, the Minister for Women and Equalities, has launched a new initiative to help people back into science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) based careers.
The scheme – backed by £150,000 of Government funding – will be run by Women Returners and STEM Returners and will target those who have taken lengthy career breaks to care for others, giving them the skills they need to succeed in the workplace.
Minister for Women and Equalities, and Secretary of State for Business and Trade, Kemi Badenoch said: “I learned how to code at the age of seven and trained as an engineer, so I know the importance of science to our economy. In the last decade we have seen more girls studying STEM subjects at school and university, but we know that too many women later drop out of those careers because they need to care for children or elderly relatives.
“We are investing in returners so we can plug the STEM gap, increase workplace equality, and boost our economy. That’s good business sense.”
Between 2009 and 2020 there was an almost 30% increase in girls starting STEM A-levels in England, and between 2011 and 2020, the number of women accepted to full-time STEM undergraduate courses increased by 50.1% in the UK. But in 2020 women only made up 29.4% of the STEM workforce in the UK.
According to the UK Commission’s Employer Skills Survey 2013, 43% of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) vacancies are hard to fill. But there were approximately 75,000 people who were economically inactive due to caring responsibilities, had not worked for at least 12 months, had a STEM occupation immediately before their career break, and would like to return to work in the future. The majority of these potential returners are women.
Minister for Women, Maria Caulfield MP, said: “STEM jobs make up a large proportion of our economy, but there is a shortage in STEM employees and 75,000 STEM returners who want to get back to work. We know there are women across the country who have left their jobs to care for elderly relatives or children, and want to return to work. This pilot will help organisations to recruit those who are too often overlooked because of a gap on their CV.”
Women Returners, experts in return to work consulting, coaching and networking, will support parents and carers back into the workplace through personalised employability support, sector-specific refresh training, and work opportunities.
The STEM ReCharge pilot will provide support and training to technology and engineering returners in the Midlands and the North of England. It will also provide support and training for STEM employers on supportive returner hiring and inclusive recruitment practices.
Julianne Miles, CEO of Women Returners, said: “We are thrilled to be partnering with the Government Equality Hub and STEM Returners to launch the innovative STEM ReCharge programme in the Midlands and the North of England. There is a pressing need in these regions to provide this job-readiness support tailored to parents and carers returning to STEM, together with training for STEM employers to create more supported routes back to work for career returners. We’re confident that this comprehensive programme of support will help to accelerate the removal of the career break penalty in the UK.”
Natalie Desty, Director of STEM Returners, said: “We are delighted to be supporting the Government Equality Hub in increasing the opportunity for Returners in STEM and lowering the barriers they face when they try to resume their careers. This programme will allow us to continue our mission to help create a diverse, inclusive and equitable STEM sector. We are especially delighted to be collaborating on this project with Women Returners, as working together we can achieve more.”
The Government has already funded 25 returner programmes across the private and public sectors. This includes providing a £1.5 million grant fund to support projects in the private sector, as well as targeting key professions in the public sector, such as social workers and health professionals. Guidance for employers on how to support returners, and a toolkit for those on their return to work journey, is also available via the GOV.UK website.