Cable urged to back ‘returnship’ schemes for women in engineering


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.