Cable urged to back “returnships” for women

Posted on 2 Feb 2015 by Victoria Fitzgerald

Today Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, Dr Vince Cable is being implored to introduce a “returnship” scheme for women in STEM who have taken maternity or career breaks.

The news comes following a survey by Prospect union revealing the many obstacles women face when returning to work.

Women in Manufacturing, an initiative set up by British Glass, the Women’s Engineering Society and Talent Retention Solution penned a letter to Dr Cable urging him to back the initiative and proposing that the funding should come from BIS.

Sue Ferns, Prospect union’s director of communications and research, said:

“Returnships can help address the UK’s skills shortage in science, technology, engineering, maths and manufacturing related careers, as well as creating a more equal and diverse workforce.

“Our idea is for employers to work with other skills organisations, trade unions and other stakeholders to create returnships to bring women back from extended leave.

“An alarming 60% of respondents to our survey identified serious barriers to returning to work.”

Barriers include lack of training and guidance; not enough opportunities for flexible or part-time working; too little pay against the costs of childcare; and problems with location.

Returnships are a simple and effective way to help women back on to the career ladder after time out.

Dawn Bonfield, president of the Women’s Engineering Society, said: “The employee is given a short-term contract by a participating company, and follows a set programme of activity, including monitoring and support, designed to help bring them up to speed.

“Where available, it opens the door to permanent job opportunities as well.”

The signatories have offered to help draw up a proposal that would include sharing good practice and lessons learned.