Employers are being urged to tap into a wider talent pool, including career returners, to address the UK's continuing shortage in STEM (science, technology, engineering, maths) skills.
A new guide – published by the IET and Prospect trade union – provides employers with practical advice on how to address the skills shortage, including offering flexible working, reviewing policies and benefits; rethinking how and where they advertise jobs; explaining to recruitment agencies that they welcome returners; and developing a more inclusive and diverse internal culture.
Supporting the step back into STEM careers also highlights outdated perceptions that career breaks are obstacles and interruptions – and points out that highly skilled and experienced engineers and other STEM professional wanting to return to the workplace are often side-lined in favour of candidates with continuous service and this is exacerbating the skills shortage.
IET President, Jeremy Watson explained: “The guide comes hot on the heels of the government’s new investment in schemes to help returners back into the workplace. As the engineering skills shortage continues to grow, our sector must move away from the misconception that career breaks get in the way and are a problem.
“Instead, STEM employers should view career breaks as periods of self-development and develop a culture that accommodates and values these breaks and the skills and competence of those members of staff that are currently being overlooked and side-lined.”
Deputy general secretary at Prospect, Sue Ferns commented: “Engineering still faces significant challenges of gender segregation and, particularly at a time of skill shortages and gaps, needs to draw on all of the UK’s talents and expertise.
“Having a positive approach to engaging with career returners can have significant business benefits, as well as supporting individuals to achieve their full potential. As our new guidance shows, there are lots of small practical actions that can be taken to make this happen.”