Womens Engineering Society: Inspiring women as engineers, scientists and technical leaders

Returnships in Engineering

Returnships in Engineering

Returnships are a relatively new concept in the UK, and such a simple but effective idea to help get women back onto the career ladder after an extended maternity break. If you haven't heard of them before, basically they are equivalent to internships - the Americanism for placements or short term contracts - in which the employee is given a fixed term contract and follows a programme of activity designed to bring them up to speed with the work of the company, move them around so that they gain a number of experiences, and monitor and support their career progression. Just as with internships, the employee may or may not be employed by the company at the end of the contract, depending on whether a suitable role exists, and also depending whether the employer is happy with the work of the employee.

The benefits that returnships have for women and for companies are:

  • The offer a way of bringing a woman back into a company who may have valuable experience but be slightly uncertain of taking on a senior role immediately on her return from a career break
  • They enable companies to target experienced females specifically, and offer them a bespoke retraining programme
  • They are a stepping stone for women back to an experienced position in the sector
  • They are a relatively risk free placement which allows both the employer and employee to tailor the path back to full employment
  • They can offer a more flexible phased approach back to full time work
  • The returner gets to grips with the practicalities of coming back to work without the pressure of a senior role

Goldman Sachs see their Returnships in the following way (and by the way, they own the term 'Returnship' so you can't use this term to describe your own programme unfortunately):

"In the same way that an internship offers a guided period of exploration, a “returnship” provides individuals with an opportunity to sharpen their skills in a work environment that may have changed significantly since their last experience as an employee. It also gives participants the ability to explore a new area of expertise and learn new skills. Whether it leads to a full-time career, or serves to sharpen the skills necessary to take the next step, the Goldman Sachs Returnship Program is a valuable experience for anyone who’s ready to re-enter the workforce."

WES is keen to promote Returnships in the engineering sector, so if you already offer them, or would like to develop a programme to offer them then please get in touch with Dawn Bonfield on office@wes.org.uk

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