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Over the last year a series of companies working in different sectors have announced programmes for helping people who have taken a career break to get back to work. Many have been individual initiatives. Now comes the first ever cross-company programme of its kind bringing together three major companies from different sectors who recognise that returners may have a lot to offer their organisations.
The 12-week HitReturn programme offered by Mars, Centrica and Vodafone came about after senior managers from the three companies met at a women’s networking event and began talking about the challenges for women in the workplace, especially those who had taken time out to raise a family. They decided to collaborate on a joint programme which would involve paying experienced returning professionals who have taken at least two years out of the workplace to do a 12-week programme.
Centrica and Mars are offering specific roles in areas such as Marketing, Legal, Digital, HR, Finance Operations and Customer Service. Vodafone, which is offering two roles initially, says that although it is targeting those with a background in Finance, Law, Customer Services and HR, it doesn’t want to limit itself if an amazing person comes through the door with a different background.
Centrica is the lead partner on the programme and has been working closely with the organisation Women Returners which has been guiding the design and development of the programme over the past year. Women Returners will be providing all the support elements in the programme, including coaching workshops for the participants throughout their 12 weeks.
“It’s a shock coming back to work after a career break,” said Tara Benton Head of Resourcing – Global Group Enterprise at Vodafone. “The programme gives returners the right support to set them up for success.” She adds: “Vodafone has always been passionate about bringing people back into the workforce. We ran a returnship for women in technology a couple of years ago and this is a natural evolution. By coming together our three organisations can really work to champion returners. There is something powerful about coming together to work on this. It’s a fantastic way to make this talent pool more high profile.”
Vodafone says those who are interested in applying first need to register an interest on the joint website. Then a manager will call them back to talk through what is on offer. The returners will be offered coaching and training throughout the 12 weeks – which begin in January – if they need it. They will also get a mentor. Tara says Vodafone aims to match the returners with a mentor who has had experience of returning to work after a break.
The returners programme will be open for applications throughout October. Tara says women who take up the programme at Vodafone will be assigned specific projects and will be paid at a regular contractor rate.
She hopes it will become an annual initiative and that it will end up with the women who go through the programme being hired when it finishes. She has good grounds for optimism. The women in technology returnship ended up with Vodafone hiring 11 of the 12 people who took part.
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