On International Women’s Day this week, Theresa May announced that £5m would be provided for the development of returnships in the UK:
It is fantastic to get support for career break returners on the Government agenda. I hope that this can build on the work we have done since 2014 to develop the UK returnship market based on the strong business case. The fund should provide a means of accelerating growth to new sectors and regions, enabling progress towards our objective of making returner programmes a widespread part of regular annual recruitment.
A returnship is a higher-level internship designed specifically for professionals returning after an extended career break (usually defined as over 2 years, to target the group who find it hardest to resume their professional careers). The UK programmes are open to men as well as women, whatever the reason for the break, however it’s no surprise that the vast majority of people with big CV gaps are returning mothers/carers.
Are they worth doing?
Great idea – does it work in practice? We’ve now supported many employers and cohorts of returners on returnship programmes and we can answer a firm ‘yes, it works for both the returner and the organisation’ – just read our returner programme case studies. It’s not a box-ticking exercise for companies. We’re not claiming it’s been plain sailing for all participants, or for the programme managers come to that, however if you approach a returnship with the right mindset it’s one of the best ways we’ve found to take the fast track back to a professional role. The majority of participants, typically 60-85%, are offered ongoing positions and for those where the right role isn’t available most have taken up great opportunities elsewhere (see Anna’s story for an example).
There are downsides. You have to live with uncertainty during the programme about whether you’ll get a permanent role at the end (if you feel ready and able to get straight into a permanent role, a returnship probably isn’t for you). These are pilot programmes for most organisations, so you need to have a pioneer mindset and to play an active role in making the programme work for yourself and the business.
We keep a list of UK & other European returnship programmes on our website: see here. There were 23 programmes in the UK last year and some programmes are now on to their 2nd or 3rd year. Numbers are still small, but rising quickly, and the budget funding should provide a major boost. Although there is a focus on the South East and on financial services and construction, the market is evolving rapidly and we’re co-developing programmes in a range of sectors and locations. As the concept becomes more well-known, keep your ears open locally as you may well find companies offering returnships we don’t hear about (do keep us posted as we aim to collect on-going statistics on the returnship market).
*read the original version of this blog here if you want to see how far we’ve come
Posted by Julianne