Rolling Returnships and Other New Returnship Trends

This is the first of a series of 3 articles for returning professionals on new trends in returner programmes. We’re starting with returnships, and will be moving on to supported hiring and retraining programmes.

If you’re looking to return to work after a long career break, a returnship can be a great route back to a fulfilling professional role using your skills and experience.

In the last 6 years, the returnship market has rapidly accelerated in certain countries. In the UK, numbers grew from 3 programmes in 2014 to 53 returnships across 83 employers in 2019, in a wide range of sectors including telecoms, tech, media, local and central Government, legal, investment management, insurance, consulting, transport, engineering and construction. Returnships also grew rapidly in the USA and India, with pockets of growth in smaller countries such as Ireland and Switzerland. After an unsurprising downturn during 2020, programme launches are picking up again and we’re hopeful that the upward trajectory will resume post-pandemic.

As with anything new, returnship design has been a process of learning and improving. At Women Returners, we’ve evolved the structure of our partnership programmes to increase the likelihood of success for returners and the business, and have looked to create new formats to widen the applicability and scope of opportunities.  To help you keep track, here’s a recap on what we mean by a returnship, followed by a highlight of a few of the new trends.

Recap: What is a Returnship?

A returnship is a professional-level, competitively-paid placement for 3-6 months, with a strong possibility of an ongoing role at the end of the programme. Effectively, it’s a higher-level internship specifically designed for returning professionals. As part of a returnship, you will receive extra support to help you get up to speed as quickly as possible. That typically includes a buddy to help you settle in and navigate the team and systems, training to help fill any knowledge gaps and an internal mentor to help you understand the broader organisational context and be a valuable sounding board. Coaching is also often provided through the transition period: our Career Returners Coaching Programme supports returners throughout the returnship to help you to prepare for your return, weather the inevitable emotional and practical ups-and-downs as you transition back, and proactively manage the returnship to maximise your chance of an ongoing opportunity. Most returnships run annually with a cohort joining together on a fixed date.

Changes to Returnship Structure

  1. The typical length of a returnship is now closer to 6 months than 3 months. The early programmes were all 12 weeks, which some companies found to be too short to achieve the objectives of getting participants back up to speed and demonstrating their abilities in time to be offered a permanent role at least a month before the placement ends. Many of the new programmes are now 5 to 6 months long (although you will still find 12-14 week programmes, as some employers have found this timing works better for them).
  2. You’re now more likely to be doing a job on a “temporary to permanent” basis, rather than a project, with available headcount at the end of the returnship if it’s successful for both sides (this is always our recommendation).
  3. With a growing base of returner programme alumni, you may be allocated a ‘returner buddy’ from a previous cohort to add to your support team.

Importantly, the first two changes have led to much higher post programme retention rates in recent years. We’ve seen the conversion rate to ongoing roles rise from about 50% to closer to 80-100%, as programmes are increasingly structured with this longer-term perspective.

Cross-Company Returnships

A growing area has been the development of cross-company returner programmes: a number of employers in a similar geographic location, and usually in the same sector, join together under an umbrella returnship programme. We’ve run cross-company programmes since 2018 in the financial services sector, in professional services, in law and in the savings and investment sector. It’s an exciting new development as it enables organisations with smaller-scale recruitment needs, or who want to test out the concept, to run a programme. Employers get to share learnings and costs, and to collaborate to increase sector-wide diversity in recruitment.

If you join one of our partnership cross-company programme, you will apply to and have your placement in one of the participating organisations. You’ll have group coaching with other returners across the participating organisations, giving you the opportunity to build a diverse, rich and supportive peer network.

One UK example is The Diversity Project Cross-Company Returner Programme, advertising now for the second year. This is a returnship across firms in the savings and investment sector. We’re leading the programme in partnership with the Diversity Project, an employer-led body. The 2020 programme was really successful, despite Covid uncertainties and virtual working, with an 82% conversion rate into ongoing roles. Participating organisations have increased from 5 to 8 leading employers for 2021.

Rolling Returnships

We’re seeing a new returnship format emerging – we’re calling it a ‘Rolling Returnship’. In this case, the returnship runs on a rolling application basis throughout the year, with returners joining individually at various dates to suit the business needs. This makes it easier for employers to offer their BAU (business as usual) roles, which come up ad-hoc during the year, to returner applicants.

With a rolling returnship, you may be invited to apply for all jobs in the open market or for a selection of roles identified as suitable for returners (e.g. where up to date technical/business knowledge isn’t required). You may be in competition with non-returner candidates, or certain roles may have been ringfenced for returners. You will join on a placement, as with a fixed date returnship, with support on an individual rather than a cohort basis (although you may get a returner buddy as mentioned above). See the programme with Mazars for an example.

What do we think about these trends?

Part of our mission is for returner programmes to become a normal part of an organisation’s wider talent strategy, so continued innovations like these are essential to broaden the potential of the return to work market. Both rolling returnships and cross-company programmes are an exciting way of opening up more opportunities for returners. The key consideration is that they are structured to work effectively for both the business and the participants, including recognising and lowering the hiring barriers that returners encounter.

Read our returnship success stories here to hear from participants themselves about their experiences – get your dose of inspiration!



What to expect on a returnship during the pandemic?

Are feel you feeling nervous about returning to work through a returner programme during the pandemic?

We have coached and spoken to many returners who have been working remotely, we have partnered with a number of organisations on their remote returnships, and we hosted an employer event in June which brought together over 50 employers, with 3 of our partners sharing their experience and advice for running a returnship during the pandemic.  From this range of experiences and feedback, we can reassure you that returner programmes are working well, despite the current challenges. As one employer commented, despite initial concerns, “The programme is going fantastically well.”

Let us guide you through what looks different from both a returner and employer perspectives, so you know what to expect.

Launch Events

The purpose of a launch event is to enable you to find out more about the organisation, bring to life what it’s like to work there, gain return-to-work support and network with leaders in the business. Virtual launch events deliver the same outcomes, only they are carried out via Zoom, Teams or another video platform.

There are benefits to a virtual event. You can dial in without a commute, saving time and expense and simplifying any childcare or eldercare arrangements. At the moment, you’ll also be seeing employers working from home, so we’ve found these events can feel more personal. One of the challenges was recreating the networking component to an in-person event. Now most of our co-hosted events use break-out groups for small group networking chats, so you can to have the opportunity to ask your questions and virtually speak to employers ‘face-to-face’.

The feedback from our co-hosted launch events has been really positive. One returner emailing us to say “I was hesitant to sign-up to a virtual launch event but the organisational culture came through so clearly via the panel and speakers that I knew this was going to be a great fit for me.” From the employer’s perspective, dunnhumby commented “The event showcased our new normal, working from home, and it felt very natural and authentic.”


It will come as no surprise that all recruitment has now moved to video and telephone interviews. Although a video interview may seem daunting, it’s no different in format than the Zoom conversations you’ve been having with friends and family during lockdown. One employer commented “Any concerns we had about virtual interviews have now faded away. People have brought their whole selves to the interview.” We expect that virtual interviews will be a staple in the recruitment process even when employers are back in the office, as they remove the need for meeting space, and enable interviewers from different locations to join, which has the benefit of speeding up the interview process.

You do need to prepare well. You can have your notes to hand and may need to work a little harder to build rapport. If you have an upcoming interview, do check out our blog with top tips to help you prepare.


Organisations have quickly adapted to virtual ‘onboarding’ (integrating a new employee into the organisation) for all hires, and have put systems and processes in place to make this a smoother transition. This can include couriering IT equipment to your home, pre-onboarding information and advice, organising regular weekly calls to answer any questions, and setting up video introductory calls as part of an induction itinerary. One employer at our event commented “New employees have been given the gold standard of induction taking them through the first few months of employment to ensure they meet the right people, understand our culture and feel part of the team.” One returner shared that she was being invited to attend social team meetings prior to her start date – once a week on the run up to her joining date she dialled into the team call where they talked about “everything except work”. She said “It made me feel part of the team before I had officially started. It was great to get to know everyone socially so that on day one they were familiar. It removed part of the stress of starting a new job by seeing friendly faces.”

Working remotely

So far returners who have joined programmes remotely were not expecting to do so. They had accepted offers prior to lockdown so their expectations of returning to work panned out very differently. However, they have embraced it – recognising that although a virtual returnship placement looks slightly different, it is still a great opportunity and can have advantages. One returner shared “A large part of my return to work plan was to get out of the house and be in an office environment but here I am sitting at home. However it feels like it has been an easier transition, I am loving the job and being at home made me feel far less nervous about it all, I also get the opportunity to see the children during the day which is a bonus. It’s like a really soft transition which has worked far better than I expected.”

Working with children at home

We are not working from home as we knew it 5 months ago, but we are at home working during a pandemic. If you have children at home too that adds to the complexity of the situation. However, employers recognise the challenge that many parents are facing and they have put in guidelines and flexibility to support their teams. One returner told us “Before I started my manager shared with me that he also has children at home and he understands that I will need to be flexible at times. We agreed that I would work earlier in the day, take time off over lunch and log into again in the afternoon. Having that flexibility has enabled me to do my job and tend to the children when needed.” At our employer event, one employer shared “Many managers are in the same boat [with children at home] and we will make allowances for home-schooling and childcare.”

Doing the job and networking

The overall feedback from returners who have started and finished their placements at home has been very positive. They have admitted that they needed to work differently and be proactive to build relationships, but technology has enabled them to do so effectively, supported by the wrap-a-round support and structure of the returnship programme. They are enjoying their return and don’t feel like the remote set up has impacted on their ability to do the job. Employers are doing their utmost to ensure everyone is set up correctly to be productive, giving flexibility where needed and facilitating both business and social meetings. Some have mentioned that the crisis has humanised the workplace, with conversations being far more informal with family in the background.

Employers Perspective

At our employer event, we heard from 3 panellists.  One has launched their programme and is now going through the recruitment process.  The other 2 hired returners fully expecting them to be in the office and had to pivot quickly to bring them in remotely.  All 3 panellist spoke positively about their experiences: “Our managers were blown away with calibre of returner talent” ;  “The returners have a mentor, buddy, Programme Manager, Women Returners Coaching and a peer support group. We have provided welcome packs and FAQs; the returners feel that there is a lot of support to ease their transition.”

Go for it!

In summary, while returner programmes may look different, they still hold the same value for both employers and returners. At our employer event we heard loud and clear that organisations are committed to keeping returnships and other diversity activities on the organisational agenda. If you are considering returning to work but nervous about what to expect and whether you can make it a success, then we hope this has given you reassurance and encouragement to go for it.


Returnship or Supported Hiring? Choosing the best route for you

In the UK, there are over 420,000 professional women on a career break who want to return to work at some point (and this is only women who are not earning and taking a caring-related break). Given the variety of experience, length of career break, reason for break, and so on, there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all route back. The path you choose depends very much on your own experience and personal situation.

One route back to work is via a specific returner programme within an organisation, usually a ‘returnship’ or ‘supported hiring’ programme. If you are looking to return to full-time or part-time employment, this path can work well, as it provides specific support and training for people who have been on a long career break (typically 2 or more years at the time the programme starts).

What is the difference between a returnship and a supported hiring programme?

While both target returners, and both offer a supported transition, the main difference is the structure of the programme:

  • A returnship is a higher-level internship for experienced professionals returning to work following an extended career break. It is a fixed-term contract (usually between 3 and 6 months), with a strong possibility but not a guarantee of a permanent job at the end of the programme. Typically, returners start as a cohort at the same time in the year.
  • Supported hiring, a concept created by Women Returners in 2015, brings you in to permanent roles from Day One. Companies may open all their roles on this basis, or may select those roles that do not require up-to-date skills and experience. Some supported hire returners start as a cohort but more usually roles are offered on a rolling basis, with individuals starting at different times.

Advantages of a returner programme

Let’s start with the advantages that apply to both programmes:

  • Support: Key people will be made available to support you internally. As well as your Line Manager, there is usually a Programme Manager and often an internal mentor. For Women Returners programme partners, you will also receive our structured Career Returners Coaching Programme, led by one of our returner coaches, during the transition period.
  • Variety: While returnships were only pioneered by Women Returners in the UK in 2014, and supported hires in 2015, the number of programmes has grown significantly, and they are now starting to cover a wide range of sectors, including finance, tech, construction, telecoms, and local and central government.
  • Suitable-level work: Returners can sometimes lack the confidence to apply for jobs at a similar level to their pre-break role, which can lead to boredom and frustration. Returnships and supported hires are designed to support you back to a role in which you can utilise your former skills and experience and work at a similar level as you did in your previous career. You may get back to this level immediately or, if you’ve had a very long break, there should be a plan to help you to get back to where you were.
  • Professional salary: Unlike some other routes back to work, such as entrepreneurship, strategic volunteering and freelancing, both returnships and supported hires offer a guaranteed salary, which is in line with the professional nature of the work.

Which is the better option?
There are pros and cons to each, and the choice you make depends on your own situation.



  • Trial period: If you’ve been out of the workplace for a long time, this could be the perfect way to test out a return to work to see if it is the right decision for you. This is particularly important if you have childcare / eldercare to consider, as it gives everyone the opportunity to try a new routine. It’s also a great way of finding out if a new sector/organisation/role is a good fit for you before committing.
  • Group support: You are likely to join as part of a returner cohort, giving you a ready-made peer support network. With a larger group, the induction and training programme may also be more structured.
  • Returner competition only: Returnship programmes are only open to people who are returning from a career break, which means that you are not competing with people who have not taken a career break.


  • Uncertainty: A returnship is not just a trial for you, but also for the company. This means that there is an element of uncertainty as you won’t know for a few months whether you will be offered a permanent role.  This can also make it harder to organise any caring cover you may need. [If you don’t transition to a permanent job within the organisation for any reason, you will still gain fresh skills, recent experience and a new work network]
  • Integration challenges: It may be harder to fully integrate into the team when your longer-term position is unclear.

Supported Hiring


  • Certainty: The greatest benefit is that supported hiring roles are permanent from the start, meaning that you can make more long-term plans both within the organisation and in your home life.
  • Immediate integration: If you join a company through a supported hire programme, you are viewed by your colleagues as ‘just another’ new joiner, with a clearly defined role within the team.


  • Competition from non-returners: While a few supported hire roles are ring-fenced for returners, most are open to non-returners too, meaning that you are competing against people with recent experience for the job.
  • No trial: You don’t have the structured fixed-term test period you would have for a returnship.
  • Less structured support: Most supported hires join individually, rather than as a peer group, so the support may be more ad-hoc.

If you would like to read about some real-life experiences of returnships and supported hiring programmes, read the many return-to-work stories on our website.

Finally, if you haven’t already done so, please do sign up to our free network if you would like to find out about the latest returnships and supported hire roles.

Returner programme guidance – benefits for employers & returners

Now is the perfect time to return to work after a career break!

8th April is International Women’s Day, with a theme this year of #PressforProgress. At Women Returners, we continue to #PressforProgress in supporting women back into suitable roles in the
workplace after an extended career break. Alongside the free support we give to returners through our Network, our main way of achieving our objectives is through our efforts to make ‘returnships’ and other returner programmes a normal part of annual recruitment across sectors and across the UK.
Rise of Returner Programmes
Since we first started promoting the returnship concept in the UK in 2014, the number of returner programmes has increased
year on year, to over 40 in 2017, helping hundreds of
women to pick up their careers. Recognising and supporting the concept, the UK government on IWD last year committed £5M
to support returnships and now have a team working on returner initiatives in the Government Equalities Office (GEO). The Scottish Government has also got behind returnships, providing funding for our current cross-company programme in Scotland.
Returner Programmes: Best Practice Guidelines for Employers
The “Returner
Programmes: Best Practice Guidelines for Employers”
was launched this week by GEO. We’re proud to have co-written this guidance with our friends at Timewise, as we’re keen to ensure that returner programmes work well for both organisation and returners. Employers can now get free practical advice and information on how to engage and support this
fantastic talent pool.
We had the opportunity to highlight the benefits to employers of returner programmes and the Guidance in this week’s GEO blog: Why Creating Returner Programmes Makes Business Sense
Benefits for Returners
If you’re returning to work, here’s why the Guidelines are great news for you too:
1. New knowledge
You can
gain a clear understanding of what a returner programme entails, and what
companies are aiming towards, so you can be more informed and proactive during
the application process and once you are accepted on to a programme. You can also find a clear business case for hiring returners and could use this information to reach out to companies who do not yet offer
2. More opportunities
The guidelines offer a toolkit for
companies, providing practical advice for every stage of designing and running
a returnship or supported hiring programme, together with the business case to obtain senior buy-in. With this free help so readily available, it’s now easier
than ever for companies of all sizes to set up returner programmes.
· 3. Fairer hiring processes & pay
The report also
sets out to create more understanding around the
needs of returners, your varying reasons for taking time out, and the support you may
require in returning to the workplace. We hope this will lead to improvements in
recruitment and induction processes and make it easier for you to
integrate into your new role. There is also a clear recommendation for returners
to be paid at a competitive level which recognises your skills and experience and the nature of the work you are doing.
· 4. Promotion of talent
By encouraging employers to make hiring great talent
their key message, rather than promoting returner programmes as part of a corporate
social responsibility agenda, the guidance paves the way for you to be
truly valued and respected in your new role.
Upcoming Guidance for Returners
More good news to come … We are currently writing a follow-on guide for returners, to give you a step-by-step roadmap back to work. Once again we’re partnering with GEO and Timewise on this toolkit, to be published later this year.
With all of this progress, we truly believe that there has never been a better time for women on a career break to return to the workplace! So what are you waiting for? Join our free Returners Professional Network to stay informed of the latest opportunities, events and resources for returners.
Posted by Julianne and Elaine

Returnships aren’t just for mothers

Do you think that returnships are just for mothers who’ve taken a break to look after their young children? Think again! Women and men take long career breaks for many other reasons, such as caring for elderly relatives, personal illness, and relocation.

Andrew Bomford from the Radio 4 PM programme came along to the first Balfour Beatty Career Returner workshop and spoke to the returner group, as well as to Anna from Women Returners. He also interviewed Clare who’s now back in full-time work as a Senior Manager at O2. Listen to the clip below for a snapshot of the wonderful diversity of the returner community, as well as an illustration of how returner programmes can work for the individual as well as the organisation.

Posted by Julianne

Is a returnship right for me?

As I’m sure you know, I’m fairly evangelical about the potential benefits to businesses and individuals of returnships – we have so many great case stories* of women getting back into great jobs this way. However I also recognise that they’re not perfect (we’ve been working through many of the teething issues with organisations over the last 3 years) and that they’re not for everyone. So this post is to help those of you wondering …

Is a returnship right for me?

Answer these 6 questions to find out:

Q1: Have you had a career break from your professional career for over 2 years?

YES: Go to Q2

NO: For most programmes there’s a minimum of a 2 year break (sometimes 18 months). If you’re looking for another job after redundancy, statutory maternity leave or a shorter sabbatical, focus on direct hire roles instead as you shouldn’t need the support package provided through a returnship. If you’re finding it hard to get a permanent role, even with a short break, also consider stepping stone roles such as interim, maternity covers, temp and contract work.

Q2: Are you looking for a complete career change?

NO: If you’d like to use your existing/transferable skills and experience, in the same or a different sector, go to Q3.

YES: A returnship can work for career shifters (into a new sector or using transferable skills) but isn’t aimed at complete career changers. Look instead at study routes, strategic volunteering (or ‘work experience’) in your chosen sector, and at retraining programmes such as those listed here.

Q3: Are you confident that you can get directly into a permanent role via standard recruitment routes?

NO: Go to Q4

YES: If you like the idea of a trial period in a new sector, or a chance to test out whether it’s the right time to return, go to Q4. If you would value the support offered on a returnship, look at Supported Hiring returner programmes (into permanent roles) and corporate returner events, or consider funding your own returner coaching. If you don’t see any challenges with getting a permanent role, you don’t need a returnship!

Q4: Can you be flexible on flexibility of hours/location?

YES: Go to Q5

NO: If you have strict requirements for how work will work for you (e.g. 2 days a week, completely home-based, short commute), do push yourself a bit to consider where/how you can compromise. If you’re completely inflexible you will find it hard to commit to and benefit from even a part-time returnship**; you need to have the opportunity to prove yourself, be visible and upskill and it will be harder to find a suitable-level role at the end. You may want to consider freelancing or other options until you’re at the point where you can commit more time to work.

Q5: Can you be flexible on salary for the returnship period?

YES: Go to Q6

NO: Returnship salaries shouldn’t be minimum wage. They are typically at an experienced hire level, but may be significantly lower than you were used to. Remember that this is a fixed term (3-6 month) programme rather than a permanent role; make sure to discuss the likely level of salary for roles at the end of the programme to assess whether the cost-benefit of this supported bridge back makes sense for you.

Q6: Are you proactive, positive and able to cope with uncertainty?

NO: Returnships come with their own challenges. In these pilot years participants play a key role in making the programme work and you need to be proactive to make the most of the opportunity. Even though the majority of participants convert into ongoing roles, you will also have to manage a degree of uncertainty during the returnship period. If this feels too stressful and/or you don’t recognise the inherent value of refreshing your networks, knowledge and experience, whatever happens at the end of the programme, then a returnship may not be the best option for you. Focus instead on returner programmes which bring you directly into permanent roles.

YES: A returnship sounds like a great fit for you! Look at the open opportunities on our website here.

* See our returnship success stories here
** Some returnships are full-time, others are open to part-time or other flexible working

Posted by Julianne

The Official Returner Programme Dictionary

What’s the difference between a returnship and supported
hiring? Are all returner programmes returnships? In the last year
many different types of returner programme have appeared – some days even we get confused! To clear up the confusion, we’ve pulled together a definition of each type of programme. Here’s our new …
Returners Returner Programme Dictionary
Returner Programme
generic term for an initiative targeted specifically at people returning to work after a long career break, including returnshipssupported hiring programmes, returner events, return-to-work
and returner training
higher-level professionally-paid internship for returning professionals. A
returnship is a short-term contract (usually for 3-6 months), with a strong
possibility but not a guarantee of an on-going role at the end of the
programme. With most returnships, particularly with larger organisations,
support in the form of mentoring/training/coaching is provided. Returnships are
solely targeted at people who have taken a long career break. Most returnships
occur annually with a cohort (e.g. EY
), however there may be more than one programme a year. UK
returnships are listed here.
Supported Hiring Programme**
recruitment process by which a returning professional is hired into a permanent position and
provided with returner coaching support through the transition. Supported
hiring roles are usually open to any applicants, however applications are
welcomed from people who have taken a long career break. Supported hiring
as part of a returner programme can either
be on a cohort basis (eg. Aberdeen Returners Programme)
or on an on-going basis (e.g. M&G Career Returners). Note: supported hiring can also be
offered for one-off roles (e.g. Mezzvest) rather than as part of a programme.
Returner Event
An event for organisations to engage,
support and attract returning professionals. A Returner Conference is a
large-scale form of returner event for a large audience over one or two days
(e.g. Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s
Returning Talent Programme
). Returner events can also be run for a
smaller more targeted audience (e.g. Bloomberg Returner Circle) and/or with a shorter
format (eg. Central Government Career Changers
Return-to-Work Fellowship
funded fellowship for returners to research careers, usually in STEM
fields. Fellowships are typically for 1-3 years. One longstanding example is
the Daphne Jackson Fellowship.
Returner Training Programme
form of returner programme where people who have
taken a long break are retrained into a new or related field, reskilled to
return to practice in their previous field or provided with a supportive
refresher programme. This can be combined with a committed on-going role at the
end of the training (e.g. FDM Getting Back to Business) or with a potential ongoing role (e.g. CMS Return to Law Programme) or be stand-alone (e.g. Come Back to Nursing).
Note: some Returner
Returner Coaching Programme
tailored form of coaching to support people returning to work after a
career break, ideally addressing both the psychological and the practical
challenges, to enable them to be more satisfied and more productive. Offered as
part of some returnships and supported
programmes. Can be offered for individuals or in
groups (e.g. Women Returners Returner Coaching Programme)
invented & trademarked by Goldman Sachs, 2008
**term invented
by Women Returners, 2015

Posted by Julianne 

Women Returners on Woman’s Hour

We were delighted to have the opportunity to feature on BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour for the second time on Monday this week. With all the post-Budget headlines on the self-employed and national insurance contributions a lot of people would have missed the positive announcement of a £5m fund to support return-to-work programmes. We’re really passionate at Women Returners about raising awareness for women about the options when they’re thinking about returning to work and providing support, advice and resources. We’re also extremely keen to be extolling the benefits and the business case to organisations for recruiting from this highly talented pool of women on career break.

The returnships feature with Jane Garvey on Woman’s Hour allowed us to raise awareness and promote the benefits, which was fantastic. On a personal level, being on national radio was a bit nerve-wracking – I re-read a couple of the Women Returners blogs on confidence over the weekend for courage! Having to get two young children ready for school in the morning before the interview though kept me grounded. My two boys were disappointed I wasn’t on a ‘cooler’ station like Radio 1. We were really pleased with the balance of the feature; a personal and inspiring case study from a returner at KPMG as well as having Israil from Skanska to give an employer’s point of view and Women Returners to chip in on the trickier points! If you have 10 minutes to spare do take the time to listen and feel free to share with friends and family who might be interested:

Getting back to work. BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour, 13 March 2017

We also had a short slot on the Money Box Budget Special on Saturday, featuring Julianne and Samina, one of our inspiring Conference panelists:

Returnships in the Budget – Feature.  BBC Radio 4 Money Box, 11 March 2017

Posted by Anna, Lead Coach – Women Returners

Returnships: what are they & where can you find them?

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.

Although we’ve been highlighting the benefits to business and individuals of returnships in the UK for over 3 years, I’m aware that many people on career break hearing the budget announcement may be wondering what a returnship is and where they can find one. So here’s an update of a blog we first wrote back in Nov 2013*.
What is a returnship?
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.
A typical programme consists of a short-term fixed term contract for 3-6 months. You do professional-level, CV-worthy work, leveraging your skills and experience. Best practice programmes offer support through coaching, training, mentoring and networking. You’ll be paid at a professional level (this isn’t a minimum wage or unpaid internship), but usually not at full-market rate until after the programme to allow for the up-skilling period and the cost of the support. There is a strong possibility, but not a guarantee, of an ongoing role at the end of the programme. Many programmes offer flexibility, sometimes including part-time work. Cohorts are small, often in the range of 5-15 participants, to ensure that suitable roles are available at the end of the programme.
For the returner, it offers a supported pathway back to a mid to senior level role, rebuilding your professional confidence, refreshing your skills and gaining recent experience. You also get to test out whether the role/organisation is right for you, as well as whether it’s the right time for you to return to work. You stand an excellent chance of getting a permanent role and, in any event, it’s a great springboard to another role elsewhere. From the employer’s side, the organisation can tap into a new talent pool of high-calibre professionals to fill their skills gaps and increase their diversity at managerial levels. The hiring manager also reduces the perceived risk of hiring someone without recent experience directly into a key role in their team.

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.

Where can I find one? 
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).
What if there aren’t any in my area/sector/country?
Don’t sit back and wait for the market to develop and your perfect returnship to appear! If the concept appeals, try setting up your own informal paid ‘returnship’ in a company where you have contacts – you may prefer to talk of it as a project or temporary/trial position. Be a pioneer yourself! We’ll talk more about pitching your own returnship in a future post.

*read the original version of this blog here if you want to see how far we’ve come

Posted by Julianne

Returnships on the Radio

It was fantastic to have the opportunity, this week, to spread the word about the benefits and growth of returnships on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme. Rachel Tomkins, a project manager at Tideway, also discussed her experiences on the 2014 Tideway Returner Programme.
If you missed it, you can listen on iPlayer until
Tuesday using this link: ‪ … … (it’s a 5 minute clip, 2:49 into the programme).

Posted by Julianne