The UK government has awarded £150,000 to support a pilot scheme that will help parents and carers return to the science sector after career breaks. The Stem Recharge project will be delivered in the Midlands and north of England and will provide support for people returning to the workforce, as well as employers.

According to government estimates around 75,000 people in the UK, mostly women, are currently looking to return to the science and engineering sectors after taking career breaks due to caring responsibilities. Despite this, employers report that 43% of vacancies are difficult to fill, while women make up less than 30% of the Stem workforce.

To try to break down some of the barriers faced by those looking to return after career breaks, the government has announced new funds to support a programme led by Women Returners and Stem Returners – two organisations specialising in supporting those looking to return to work.

The Stem Recharge project will offer free career coaching, mentoring and sector-specific upskilling to 100 returners who have taken career breaks of at least one year. The programme will also work with 30 Stem employers to improve recruitment and onboarding processes, and reduce biases that hinder the return to work for people who have taken career breaks.

The pilot scheme will run for 18 months in the Midlands and north of England – two regions that currently have far fewer returner programmes than areas in the south of the country. The government has already provided funds to 25 other returner programmes operating in the UK.

‘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,’ said Women Returners chief executive Julianne Miles in a statement on the new scheme. ‘We’re confident that this comprehensive programme of support will help to accelerate the removal of the career break penalty in the UK.’

‘There is a perception that a career break automatically leads to a deterioration of skills. But the reality is, that many people on a career break keep themselves up to date with their industry, can refresh their skills easily when back in work and have developed new transferable skills that would actually benefit their employers,’ added Stem Returners director Natalie Desty. ‘This programme will allow us to continue our mission to help create a diverse, inclusive and equitable Stem sector.’