Between 2009 and 2020, there was an almost 30 percent increase in girls starting STEM A-Levels in England, and between 2011 and 2020, the number of women accepted to full-time STEM undergraduate courses increased by 50.1 percent in the UK. Despite this, women still make up just 29.4 percent of the STEM workforce in the UK.As a result, according to the UK Commission’s Employer Skills Survey 2013, 43 percent of science, technology, engineering and maths vacancies are hard to fill. There were approximately 75,000 people who were economically inactive due to caring responsibilities, had not worked for at least 12 months, had a STEM occupation immediately before their career break, and would like to return to work in the future.The majority of these potential returners are women.Recognising this, the new scheme aims to target staff who have taken career breaks and promoting core skills in an attempt to plug the STEM skills gap. It is supported by £150,000 of government funding and will be run by Women Returners and STEM Returners.Women Returners, which specialises in return-to-work consulting, coaching and networking, will support parents and carers back into the workplace through personalised employability support, sector-specific refresh training, and work opportunities.Julianne Miles, CEO of Women Returners, said: “We are thrilled to be partnering with the Government Equality Hub and STEM Returners to launch the innovative STEM ReCharge programme in the Midlands and the North of England. “There is a pressing need in these regions to provide this job-readiness support tailored to parents and carers returning to STEM, together with training for STEM employers to create more supported routes back to work for career returners. “We’re confident that this comprehensive programme of support will help to accelerate the removal of the career break penalty in the UK.”The STEM ReCharge pilot will provide support and training to technology and engineering returners in the Midlands and the North of England. It will also provide support and training for STEM employers on supportive returner hiring and inclusive recruitment practices. Joanna Kori, Head of People at KYC intelligent process automation company, Encompass Corporation, commented: “I am glad to see the Government promoting and providing tangible support to women looking to get into, or return to, STEM careers through investment and skills training. “STEM careers are hugely rewarding, yet, as recent figures show, too few women are involved in the sector, and that needs to change. Women are poised to play a crucial role in resolving the skills gap, and it is vital that organisations provide the opportunities and training to empower women and encourage them to pursue a career in STEM.”The Government has previously funded 25 returner programmes, including £1.5 million in grant support for projects in the private sector, with STEM the latest area of focus.Nicola Pickering, VP of Customer Success & Delivery at Encompass Corporation, commented: “The opportunities and avenues available in STEM are vast and, with initiatives like this, will only increase. It is encouraging to see how far we have come in schools, in terms of expanding opportunities, and instilling in girls to have no limits in what they pursue. “There is so much possibility to achieve in the tech industry and, with the evolution of flexible working, inclusion for women is greater than ever before, meaning they can fulfil exciting career ambitions while maintaining the positive work-life balance that many look for. “Women must be brave, seek out and step forward, and take opportunities. Our careers are crafted by our skills and our value but, fundamentally, our careers are also crafted by the opportunities that we seek and accept.“It is also important to remember that we all benefit from role models, mentors, and coaches. It doesn’t matter what stage you are at in your career, surround yourself with positive contributors who guide your career journey,” Pickering added. Guidance for employers on how to support returners, and a toolkit for those on their return-to-work journey, is also available via the GOV.UK website.
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