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Cable urged to back returnship schemes for women in engineering

02 February 2015

The Women's Engineering Society and others have called on Vince Cable to introduce 'returnship' schemes for women engineers who have taken maternity or career breaks, in the wake of a survey revealing just how many obstacles such women face.

 

The 'Women in STEM Are you In or Out' survey carried out last year pointed to a number of serious barriers which prevent women returning to the engineering sector, and with such a serious skills shortage on the horizon we need to find a way to overcome these barriers.

 

The request was made in a letter to the business secretary from the Women's Engineering Society, Prospect, Women in Manufacturing, and Talent Retention Solution (TRS).  

 

"Returnships can help address the UK's skills shortage in science, technology, engineering and maths, as well as creating a more equal and diverse workforce," said Sue Ferns, the Prospect Union's director of communications and research. Our idea is for employers to work with other skills organisations, trade unions and other stakeholders to create returnships to bring women back from extended leave. An alarming 60% of respondents to our survey identified serious barriers to returning to work. These include lack of training and guidance; not enough opportunities for flexible or part-time working; too little pay against the costs of childcare; and problems with location. Returnships are a simple and effective way to help women back on to the career ladder after time out."


Dawn Bonfield, President of the Women's Engineering Society, said: "The employee is given a short-term contract by a participating company, and follows a set programme of activity, including monitoring and support, designed to help bring them up to speed. Where available, it opens the door to permanent job opportunities as well."     

 

The letter proposes that funding could come from the BIS 'Developing Women Engineers' fund which has recently had an underspend of some £9.7 million. All four signatories have offered to help draw up a proposal that would include sharing good practice and lessons learned.     

 

The Women in STEM: Are you IN or OUT? Survey overview can be downloaded from https://www.wes.org.uk/inorout.  

It was completed by over 5000 respondents between May and September 2014.     

 
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