New jobs scheme to help engineers return to work after a career break launched by Harbour Energy

STEM Returners’ annual survey has asked a range of questions to more than 1000 STEM professionals on a career break to understand their experiences of trying to gain employment

ENGINEERS and people working in STEM in Aberdeen have the opportunity to break through the so-called ‘career break curse’ after a new job scheme has been launched by Harbour Energy.

The independent oil and gas company has teamed up with award-winning STEM Returners to run the scheme at their site in Aberdeen and roles will include Technical Assistants in the Subsurface Business Unit and a Change & Release Engineer and Incident & Problem Engineer in the IT Unit.

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Mavis Anagboso, Global Head of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion at Harbour Energy, said: “Harbour Energy is committed to attracting talent from diverse groups, including those often overlooked through traditional recruitment. We are delighted to partner with STEM Returners on this recruitment campaign, targeting people who have had extended career breaks. This is one of several initiatives we are looking into as part of our Diversity, Equity & Inclusion strategy.”

The scheme’s launch coincides with the results of STEM Returners’ annual survey, which asked a range of questions to more than 1,000 STEM professionals on a career break to understand their experiences of trying to gain employment. 

Published on International Women in Engineering Day (23 June), the STEM Returners Index showed that bias in the recruitment process prevents engineers from returning to employment after a career break.

Nearly a third (29%) of women said they feel they have personally experienced bias in recruitment processes due to their gender compared to 7% of men. Despite 39% of females wanting to return to work due to children now being of school age (vs 8% of males), 40% of females still feel childcare responsibilities are a barrier to returning to employment due to lack of flexibility offered by employers.

In the survey, men (46%) were more likely to be victim of bias because of their age compared to women (38%). Bias also appears to become more prevalent with age, with more than half of over 55’s saying they have experienced personal bias, compared to as low as 23% in younger age groups, according to the survey.

The Index also asked returners about the impact of Covid on their experience. More than (34%) said the pandemic made it more difficult for them to get back to work than it would have been previously.

For many people, Covid was the catalyst for a career break they might not have taken otherwise. 36% said Covid was a factor in their decision to take a career break. According to the results, redundancy was also given as the reason for career breaks (20% in 2022 vs 17% in 2021). 

Natalie Desty, Director of STEM Returners, said: “We are delighted to be partnering with Harbour Energy to return highly skilled people back into the industry they love and we are very proud to launch this new programme at the same time as we release the results of our annual survey.”

“However, it’s disappointing to see that 66% of STEM professionals on a career break are finding the process of attempting to return to work either difficult or very difficult and that nearly half (46%) of participants said they felt bias because of a lack of recent experience.”

“We need to do more to challenge unconscious bias, which prevents so many highly skilled and talented people from returning to work.”

“Industry leaders need to do more to improve diversity and inclusion across the industry, just like Harbour Energy are doing.  Only by working together to create a supportive and inclusive environment where returners can really thrive, will we deal with the well-known skills shortage in the UK engineering industry.”

The fully paid placements aim to return or transfer experienced engineers back into industry following a career break, allowing candidates to be reintegrated into an inclusive environment.

Whilst the scheme helps solve the problem of sourcing talent in sectors that need it, it also has the added benefit of increasing diversity in a host organisation. 

The Index revealed that the pool of STEM professionals attempting to return to industry is significantly more diverse than the average STEM organisation. 

Those attempting to return to work are 46% female and 44% from ethnic minority groups, compared to 14% female and 9% from ethnic minority groups working in industry.

STEM Returners has helped more than 260 engineers across the UK since it began in 2017.

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