There’s been a lot of talk in the last few years in certain circles about returner programmes – programmes designed to help those who have taken a career break back to work. It is a recognition that those who have taken a break – often when their children are very small – face a number of challenges getting back to anything near what they were doing before.
The programmes are not just for stay at home parents, but for anyone who has taken a break – usually of at least two years, including those who have dropped off the career ladder, for instance, those who have set up a business or freelanced to gain flexibility.
Under the returner umbrella are a range of different types of programmes.
Some are designed to prepare women for returning to work while others include paid internships and the possibility of permanent positions. Others still are supported hiring schemes so the returner goes straight into a permanent role. The CIPD’s Steps Ahead programme is a more generalised programme, for instance, matching returners with HR mentors who can help with writing cvs, job search and interview practice.
Some are London-based and others are nationwide. Some are just a few weeks while others last several months. Some target areas of particular skills shortages. Others target senior leadership positions where there are often few women. Some offer flexible working from the offset. Others don’t. It is up to you to research the different options in your sector and select the one that suits you best – if one yet exists in your industry.
Most involve participants receiving training, mentoring, networking opportunities and assistance with obtaining new skills and rebuilding professional confidence to aid their transition back into the workplace. However, there are subtle differences between programmes.
The aim of the initiatives is to highlight the talent out there, equip returners with the confidence and updated industry knowledge they need and make it easier for them to get in front of hiring managers. In the long term, the goal is to normalise the hiring of those who have taken a career break.