UK Government to support women in STEM following a period of leave

A writer sums up a new governmental scheme to support women in STEM careers

Jessica Predko
8th March 2023
Image Credit: Pixabay

A new 18-month-long pilot scheme is due to launch which will help women, who have had a career break, back into STEM careers. The STEM ‘ReCharge’ programme will be run by Women Returners and STEM Returners, and has been backed with £150,000 of government funding.

Despite women making-up 50.1% of people on STEM full-time undergraduate courses and there has been a 30% increase in girls taking science A-Levels between 2009 – 2020, only 29.4% of the STEM workforce are women.

Returners to STEM often face challenges getting back into the workplace, with 38% of returners experiencing bias in the recruitment process and 72% of career returners finding it difficult to return to work. This is despite 43% of STEM vacancies being hard to fill. There are around 75,000 people who are economically inactive due to caring responsibilities, the majority of these are women.

Despite women making-up 50.1% of people on STEM full-time undergraduate courses...only 29.4% of the STEM workforce are women

The pilot scheme aims to offer free career coaching, training and sector-specific upskilling to address the employability barriers and lengthy gaps often seen on returner’s CVs. Additionally, the programme will support and train employers on returner hiring and making recruitment processes more inclusive. Employer engagement events are planned in April, taking place in Leeds and Birmingham.

The government has already funded 25 other returner schemes, targeting both the private and public sector, including social work and healthcare.

Both the North East and the Midlands have been overlooked in the past for returner programmes, with only 2.3 returner programmes per million people in the North East and 1.6 in the Midlands.

The new ‘ReCharge’ scheme is hoping to plug the gaps in recruitment, and target areas of the country where returning to STEM has shown to be the most challenging.

Minister for Women, Maria Caulfield MP, said:

“STEM jobs make up a large proportion of our economy, but there is a shortage in STEM employees and 75,000 STEM returners who want to get back to work. We know there are women across the country who have left their jobs to care for elderly relatives or children, and want to return to work. This pilot will help organisations to recruit those who are too often overlooked because of a gap on their CV.”

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