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In the last few years there have been a number of initiatives launched to help women returners, women who have taken a career break, mainly for childcare reasons.
Most of the initiatives are for those with a background in the financial services sector, but a new mentoring pilot programme for women returners has just started which is open to those with a background in multiple sectors.
The Steps Ahead programme is based on a similar and ongoing initiative run by the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development for unemployed young people.
CIPD members sign up as mentors. “They are HR professionals so they understand what employers are looking for and can help with, for instance, writing cvs, job search and interview practice,” says Jemeela Quraishi, development manager for the Steps Ahead programme. “It helps give them a better chance of securing a job.”
The initiative for young people was started up in response to the rise in youth unemployment. The young people are supplied by JobCentre Plus, with whom the CIPD partners. The mentors offer six months of face to face sessions with the mentees. Seven out of 10 of those who have completed the mentoring programme have found a job and the scheme is currently being externally evaluated so the CIPD can improve the support offered to young people and their mentors.
“We know it works,” says Jemeela. Tied with the mentoring scheme the CIPD provides feedback on the challenges faced by the mentees to employers. “We want to get employers to look at their own processes,” adds Jemeela.
The returners pilot, which starts in April and ends in July, runs alongside another pilot for people over 50. It is being trialled with 30 mentors and 30 mentees. The CIPD has been asking mentors who have taken part in its previous initiatives to participte and says there has been a lot of interest.
It has partnered with Timewise, which is putting forward returners who are proactively looking to get back to work. The initiative will focus on issues such as confidence building and cv skills. More than seventy women have been in touch to register their interest and around 40 have formally applied. They have been whittled down to 30 mainly based on the area they live in – the pilot is London-based – and whether there is a mentor available in the sector they have experience in.
“We are testing the ground to try and understand if our model works for this group, whether they need more support and whether the mentoring needs to be longer,” says Jemeela. “It’s a learning curve, but it’s very much something that is moving higher up the CIPD agenda. We want to be able to add value.”
She hopes they will also be able to provide support to employers on how they can help women returners get back to work. Just as the initiative for young people is continuing, the CIPD hope they can keep the women returners programme going and spread it nationally, but they will only do so if it is proven to work. “If we can add value we will continue to do it.”