Employers must support career returners to tackle skills shortages, says new guide

A new guide published today by the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) and Prospect trade union, provides guidance to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) employers on how to attract a wider talent pool, including career returners. 


Best practice tips for employers highlighted in the guide include: 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Supporting the step back into STEM careers also highlights outdated perceptions that career breaks are obstacles and interruptions – and points out that highly skilled and experienced engineers and other STEM professional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.


Jeremy Watson, IET President, said: “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.”


Sue Ferns, Deputy General Secretary at Prospect, the union for professionals, said: “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 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. Prospect is delighted to have partnered with the IET and looks forward to working together to make a positive difference.”


Lee Allen, Commercial Director at Jobsite said: “Female candidates and those returning from a career break are a great pool of untapped talent and have so much to offer the engineering sector.


“It’s vitally important that employers make it clear through their recruitment advertising that they’re happy to consider returners on a level playing field with all other candidates. Skilled returners with lots of experience can play a vital role in reducing the engineering skills shortage.”


Supporting the Step Back into STEM Careers has been published by the IET and Prospect trade union.