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Can returnships fix the UK’s tech skills shortage?

Returnships can provide companies with a much-needed talent boost. Could they pave the way to solving the tech industry’s talent shortage?

At CWJobs, we’ve discussed about the benefits of returnships when we reflected on how companies can help close the gender gap in the IT industry. In this post, we’ll take a closer look at whether returnships can help solve our tech talent shortage.

The term ‘returnship’ was coined and trademarked by Goldman Sachs in 2008. Returnships are essentially a type of paid internship programme that encourages people back into work after a career break. Most returnships include training and mentoring while recognising the returner’s existing skills and experience.

According to PWC’s report on women returners, addressing career breaks could provide the UK economy with a £1.7 billion boost. The report also highlighted that 3 in 5 professional women return to lower-skilled or lower-paid jobs after a career break.

So, could returnships pave the way for those looking to return to the tech industry at the same salary and solve our talent shortage?

Integration with flexible working

In our recent post Women in IT: What Does 2019 Hold for Gender Diversity?, we predicted that more companies will develop a flexible working culture this year. If returnships can be integrated into those cultures, existing employees will be more likely to consider re-joining the company in the future.

In some organisations, returnships are already seen as an extension of their flexible working ethos. Mastercard’s returnship programme is aimed at those who have taken a career break of two or more years and are ready to return to the workforce. After the launch of their first returnship programme in London, the tech company has since launched returnships in Dubai, Ireland and Belgium.

For a brief overview of Mastercard’s returnship programme, take a look at this short video:

Just as flexibility over working hours helps attract more job candidates, providing the opportunity to return to a similar role in the future, can help employers retain staff up until the point that they decide to take a career break.

Returnships benefit employers by recruiting staff that are already qualified and experienced from previous roles. Although most returnships include training, the cost of welcoming a returner back to the workforce is typically less than training a newly-qualified graduate.

Support and job satisfaction

Supportive workforces make for happier employees. Workers who know that returnship programmes are available in their company are likely to feel less anxious about leaving and returning to the workplace.

One tech company that provides its employees with the support and resources to resume their careers is IBM. Their Tech Re-Entry programme provides training to those who have taken a voluntary career break and are ready to return to work full-time. The 12-week programme is available in 16 locations in North America and India and IBM has hired 90% of the 60 women who have completed the scheme so far.

An experienced workforce

Returnship programmes in the tech industry let skilled workers rejoin the workforce, providing companies with a much-need talent boost. By returning to work at a similar level to before they left, tech workers are able to resume their careers and progress up the career ladder in an inclusive environment.

Recruiting experienced workers enables companies to see a return on initial investments quicker. Returnships also create diverse workplaces, where all employees benefit from the skills and experience of those with a different career background.

Successful returnship programmes

Although returnship programmes are still a fairly new concept, early indications show that they are successful in placing skilled candidates into full-time work. Around half of participants in Goldman Sachs’ returnship programmes now work full-time and software company Intuit’s Intuit Again programme sees around three-quarters of its participants join the company full-time.

With Microsoft recently announcing its own returnship programme Diversity in Dynamics initiative with IT recruitment company Nigel Frank, it looks like returnships are set to become more commonplace in the tech industry.

By integrating returnships into a flexible working culture, companies can attract and retain their most skilled workers. By offering support and mentorship through returnships, employees will feel less anxious about taking a career break and will be more likely to remain loyal upon their return. Recruiting experienced workers saves tech companies money in the long-term and creates a diverse workforce from which everyone benefits.