New partnership seeks to get STEM professionals on a career break back into the industry

Article by Kerry Hebden

CHEMICALS giant Johnson Matthey has formed a new partnership with STEM Returners, an organisation who specialise in helping STEM professionals return to work after a career break.  

Since it was first launched in 2017, STEM Returners has assisted more than 310 candidates return to work across the UK through its programme. The organisation has now teamed up with Johnson Matthey to offer its programme at the firm’s sites in Swindon, Culham, and Paddington for opportunities in process engineering and procurement.  

Currently, around 66% of STEM professionals on a career break say they are finding the process of attempting to return to work either difficult or very difficult, while 46% of participants said they felt bias because of a lack of recent experience, said STEM Returners. 

STEM Returners says it works hard to dismantle the barriers people face from standard recruitment channels, and helps candidates make the transition back into a STEM environment by offering a paid 12-week ‘returnship’. All candidates will have the opportunity to restart their career in a permanent position at the end of the programme. 

Along with sourcing candidates, the organisation also provides applicants with additional support including advice, career coaching, and mentoring to ensuring applicants are ready and confident to return to work.  

Natalie Desty, director of STEM Returners, said: “People wanting to return to work after a career break face an uphill battle, especially when they want to return to STEM industries. We are very proud to be entering this new partnership with Johnson Matthey, to return highly skilled people back into the industry they love. Only by partnering with industry leaders like Johnson Matthey will we make vital changes in STEM recruitment practices, to help those who are finding it challenging to return to the sector and improve diversity and inclusion.” 

Rulande Rutgers, process technology director for hydrogen technologies at Johnson Matthey, said: "Integrating STEM returners into our process technology and engineering departments will bring diversity of thinking as well as important competencies and experience to the teams. I also returned into a senior technical management role after a career break as a primary carer. I remember the challenge to restore confidence in the strengths that I brought to the job. The confidence boost that the STEM Returners programme provides will enable the candidates to perform at their full potential, benefitting both them and the company.” 

STEM Returners has recently launched the 2023 STEM Returners Index, an annual survey to further understand barriers faced by returning workers, and to track the progress STEM industries are making with solving these issues - the results of which they hope will shine a light on the change needed to create fair opportunities for all. 

The 2023 STEM Returners Index will be open until 30 June, and is open to all STEM professions who have had a gap in their career or who are attempting to return to work or who have recently returned to work. 

Article by Kerry Hebden

Staff reporter, The Chemical Engineer

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