National Grid’s Grid for Good ‘Accelerate’ programme, which aims to help individuals access training and employment opportunities in the energy sector, has partnered with STEM Returners to help STEM professionals aged 25 and over return to the sector after a career break.
Starting at sites in Leeds and Warwick, this first phase of the partnership will recruit for roles such as business analyst, product designer and control room operator. The programme involves a 12-week paid placement where individuals are able to use their skills in real-life situations, work closely with teams at National Grid and get an understanding of what the business does. Successful placements will then be transitioned into permanent roles.
The scheme is aimed at people who have struggled to return to their career through standard recruitment channels.
Annual research from STEM Returners reveals the challenges STEM professionals face when trying to return to work, following a career break, with recruitment bias shown to be the main barrier to entry. Other barriers include the cost of childcare, perceptions of career breaks degrading skills, and the lack of flexible working arrangements.
STEM Returners acts as a ‘returnship’, allowing candidates to be re-integrated into an inclusive environment upon their return to STEM. The structured placement programme provides additional support which includes access to coaching and mentoring, and access to a wider support network from National Grid and STEM Returners.
Natalie Desty, Director of STEM Returners, said: “We are very proud to be entering this new partnership with the National Grid, to return highly skilled people back into the industry they love. Only by partnering with industry leaders, will we make vital changes in STEM recruitment practices, to help those who are finding it challenging to return to the sector and improve diversity and inclusion.”
Amanda May – National Grid Group Engineering Policy Manager, Group Chief Engineer’s Office, said: “At National Grid we’re looking at how we tap into different talent pools to build the most diverse workforce capable of delivering on our net zero ambitions. This programme provides a great way for us to reach skilled individuals who are keen to re-join the sector and enables us to harness their career experiences to fill technical roles we’re recruiting for.”
There is currently a well-known skills shortage in the UK engineering industry, but despite a clear need for people, professionals who have had a career break are often overlooked. STEM Returners has recently launched the 2022 STEM Returners Index to better understand STEM professionals’ experiences of trying to re-enter the sector after a career break.
The survey is open to all STEM professionals who have had a gap in their career, who are attempting to return to work, or who have recently returned to work. It is anonymous and asks a variety of questions including reasons for a career break, what challenges were faced when attempting to return to work and what impact COVID-19 had on finding a role.
The STEM Returners’ programme aims to eliminate barriers, by giving candidates real work experience and mentoring during their placement, as well as helping them to seamlessly adjust to life back in work.
While the scheme helps solve the problem of sourcing talent in sectors with a shortage of skilled professionals, it also has the added benefit of increasing diversity in a host organisation. STEM Returners’ population of experienced professionals attempting to return to work are 51% female and 38% from black and minority ethnic groups, compared to 10% female and 6% BME working in the STEM industry.
Since STEM Returners launched in 2017, nearly 250 STEM Returner candidates have joined programmes across the UK.