Kate’s story – Returning to Engineering after a 7 year break.

“To other professionals who are on a career break and want to get back into their chosen profession, my advice is not to give up” 
Read Kate’s inspiring story of returning to work as an engineer through the Skanksa 2016 Return to Work programme. 

I did a Master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering at Imperial College and joined a rail infrastructure company’s graduate training programme when I graduated.  I worked for their rail vehicles section for six years in a range of roles, including as a project engineer managing the design and introduction of new rail vehicles into the UK infrastructure. During this time I became chartered with the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.
After taking my maternity leave, my employer was unable to accommodate my flexible working request, so I decided to take a career break. Nearly seven years later, once my youngest child was about to start school, I attended a Women’s Engineering Society conference and heard Julianne speaking about Women Returners. I had started thinking about returning to work but was daunted by the prospect and wasn’t expecting it to be easy to find a suitable part-time role in engineering. A returnship sounded like an ideal way for me to get back to work, so I joined Women Returners and began scouring the monthly newsletter for suitable programmes.
I joined the Skanska Return to Work programme as a Senior Engineer in SRW’s Engineering and Compliance team in November 2016 on a three-month contract, working part-time, and in January moved onto a permanent contract.  The Women Returners coaching sessions were invaluable and provided useful, practical advice on re-joining the workforce as well as giving me the opportunity to meet the rest of my returnship cohort and share common experiences.  At times it can be difficult juggling my job and my family commitments, but it’s not nearly as bad as I feared it might be before I started back at work. The coaching sessions with Women Returners were really useful in giving me tactics on how to deal with the added pressures of being a working parent, and it was great to have the advice and support of others who were having similar experiences at the same time.
My new colleagues in Skanska were also very supportive, and helped me make a smooth transition back to work by being flexible both with work locations and with fitting my hours in around my home commitments. I have been on several training courses, some technical and specific to my role, and some more general to Skanska and the construction industry.
To other professionals who are on a career break and want to get back into their chosen profession, my advice is not to give up. Organisations such as Women Returners are changing perceptions of career breaks and employers are starting to realise that there is a large pool of talent that they have been overlooking.  Flexible working is also becoming more common for both men and women and does not need to hamper career progression.
I am immensely enjoying being back at work and focussing on my career again.  For a while during my career break I did not think I would be able to find a suitable role in engineering and considered retraining in a more “family friendly” profession such as teaching. I am so glad that I didn’t waste my training and qualifications, and I am thrilled to be back working in engineering.
Posted by Donna

Kemi’s Story – Returning to Financial Services Transactions with EY

Women Returners is partnering with EY to launch EY Reconnect, the firm’s 2017 career returners programme, providing a bridge for professionals to re-enter the workplace after an extended career break. Kemi’s story is featured on the EY Reconnect website, please see here for more inspirational stories and further information about the programme.
Kemi, Manager, Financial Services Transactions.
“My career has always been very
important to me and, although I loved my time at home with my children, I felt
the time was right to get back into a hopefully rewarding career.”
Kemi worked at Deloitte and
Goldman Sachs before taking a career break to care for her two daughters. She
joined EY in the Transactions practice as part of the EY Reconnect programme –
a 12-week initiative providing a route back to business for people returning
from a break of 2-10 years.
“I did not want my decision to
take time off when my children were young to impair my long term career goals,
especially as I felt I was even more skilled in areas such as negotiation and
time management post two children!  When I came across the EY Reconnect
programme, it ticked all the boxes. It would give me exposure to interesting
client work but within a programme that was aware of the challenges of coming
back to work after a break.”
And the expectations of the
programme quickly became a reality for Kemi.
“On joining the programme, I was
enthusiastic to get going and add some value to my team. Luckily I have been
given the opportunity to do that just that, while taking advantage of the
exceptional learning and training EY has to offer.  For example, the career coaching
sessions have been very illuminating, with valuable knowledge sharing on the
best ways to approach this new stage of my career.”
EY’s flexible and supportive
approach was also key factor in Kemi’s decision to join the programme and where
she felt she would be able to really contribute.
“Everyone I have encountered have
been really positive and interested in the programme, and always keen for a
coffee and a catch up. In my opinion EY’s approach to workplace flexibility is
empowering for employees and shows a modern organisation that listens to its
Programmes such as EY Reconnect
encourage and empower parents to refocus on their careers after a break,
according to Kemi.
“There are huge armies of well
qualified, experienced people – especially women – who feel marginalised from
the work following a career break. EY Reconnect and similar
initiatives promote diversity in the workplace which we all know benefits
everyone – it’s a win-win situation.”
Of course, returning to work
after a long career break can bring some challenges along the way, so what’s
been the biggest challenge for Kemi to overcome?
“Realising my kids are alright
without me! Because they definitely are. I have a supportive husband and great
childcare in place, and this programme has been an opportunity to see that I
can manage a busy career and home-life. And I feel I’m providing an
important example to my daughters when I go to work each morning now.”
To find out more about the 2017
EY Reconnect Programme, see here:
Posted by Donna

The Official Returner Programme Dictionary

What’s the difference between a returnship and supported
hiring? Are all returner programmes returnships? In the last year
many different types of returner programme have appeared – some days even we get confused! To clear up the confusion, we’ve pulled together a definition of each type of programme. Here’s our new …
Returners Returner Programme Dictionary
Returner Programme
generic term for an initiative targeted specifically at people returning to work after a long career break, including returnshipssupported hiring programmes, returner events, return-to-work
and returner training
higher-level professionally-paid internship for returning professionals. A
returnship is a short-term contract (usually for 3-6 months), with a strong
possibility but not a guarantee of an on-going role at the end of the
programme. With most returnships, particularly with larger organisations,
support in the form of mentoring/training/coaching is provided. Returnships are
solely targeted at people who have taken a long career break. Most returnships
occur annually with a cohort (e.g. EY
), however there may be more than one programme a year. UK
returnships are listed here.
Supported Hiring Programme**
recruitment process by which a returning professional is hired into a permanent position and
provided with returner coaching support through the transition. Supported
hiring roles are usually open to any applicants, however applications are
welcomed from people who have taken a long career break. Supported hiring
as part of a returner programme can either
be on a cohort basis (eg. Aberdeen Returners Programme)
or on an on-going basis (e.g. M&G Career Returners). Note: supported hiring can also be
offered for one-off roles (e.g. Mezzvest) rather than as part of a programme.
Returner Event
An event for organisations to engage,
support and attract returning professionals. A Returner Conference is a
large-scale form of returner event for a large audience over one or two days
(e.g. Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s
Returning Talent Programme
). Returner events can also be run for a
smaller more targeted audience (e.g. Bloomberg Returner Circle) and/or with a shorter
format (eg. Central Government Career Changers
Return-to-Work Fellowship
funded fellowship for returners to research careers, usually in STEM
fields. Fellowships are typically for 1-3 years. One longstanding example is
the Daphne Jackson Fellowship.
Returner Training Programme
form of returner programme where people who have
taken a long break are retrained into a new or related field, reskilled to
return to practice in their previous field or provided with a supportive
refresher programme. This can be combined with a committed on-going role at the
end of the training (e.g. FDM Getting Back to Business) or with a potential ongoing role (e.g. CMS Return to Law Programme) or be stand-alone (e.g. Come Back to Nursing).
Note: some Returner
Returner Coaching Programme
tailored form of coaching to support people returning to work after a
career break, ideally addressing both the psychological and the practical
challenges, to enable them to be more satisfied and more productive. Offered as
part of some returnships and supported
programmes. Can be offered for individuals or in
groups (e.g. Women Returners Returner Coaching Programme)
invented & trademarked by Goldman Sachs, 2008
**term invented
by Women Returners, 2015

Posted by Julianne 

Free Online Courses to Support Your Return to Work

If you’re looking to boost your skills and knowledge ready to return to work, and don’t have much money to spare, then a free online course could be just what you need. We have compiled a list of some relevant courses to help you to feel prepared for your return to work. Don’t forget to also look at any CPD courses that are provided by relevant industry associations.
If there is one skill that would improve both your chances of finding fulfilling work, and improve your success when in your new role, then networking is it.  This course by Future Learn aims to help you build and sustain your professional relationships to open up career opportunities: Business Fundamentals: Effective Networking
Public speaking
TED is an excellent source of free-to-watch online videos that cover nearly every aspect of your professional life. This playlist collated by TED shares many innovative ideas for great public speaking: Playlist Before Public Speaking
Computer Skills
Microsoft is still king in corporate environments. Luckily there is an abundance of free courses to help you get back up to date with any of the changes since you last had to pull together a spreadsheet. If you are looking to learn Excel as fast as possible ready, this great course from Udemy takes just 1 hour! Online course provider, Alison, has many courses published by Microsoft themselves including Excel, Word and Outlook: Microsoft Courses on Alison
Many companies have now moved over to Google for the majority of their applications. This includes Google Docs, Blogger, Gmail, Analytics and Adsense. Look at Google Courses on Alison, including the introductory Google Applications for Business
Other free sources of tech updating include:
  • The Digital Garage – free Google training in digital skills & social media
  • Udacity – tech skills from Silicon Valley companies
  • Lynda.com – a wide range of online tech and other skills courses (paid but often has 30-days-free offers)

University Courses

If you want to learn about a specialised subject or to update your knowledge in your professional field, then free MOOCs (massive open online courses) are a great place to look:

Posted by Donna