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Returnship Q&A: The employer’s perspective

As Thames Tideway Tunnel’s new Returner Programme deadline approaches next Friday, Women Returners interviewed Tideway’s Head of HR, Julie Thornton, to get her perspective on the business rationale for launching this innovative returnship, together with some information and advice for would-be applicants. 
WR: What is your motivation for setting up the Tideway
Returner Programme? What is the appeal of returning professionals to your
JT: As a company, we are looking to increase the diversity
of our workforce and this seemed an ideal way of doing so. Thames Tideway
Tunnel is very active with early careers activities, graduates and
apprenticeships, and the Returner Programme gives
us the opportunity to fill an obvious gap – targeting
and encouraging individuals who want to get back to a career after
taking a break. We see returning professionals as a
strong female talent pool which we are keen to access.
WR: What can participants expect on the programme?
JT: They will experience a fulfilling role within the
project, at an exciting time in our history as we move towards actually
starting construction after more than 10 years of planning. They will also be
fully supported by the management team to get them up to speed, have a
dedicated mentor and receive expert coaching and support from Women Returners.
WR: Is your organisation expanding? Will there be ongoing job
opportunities after the programme?
JT: In brief, yes. There are lots of vacancies currently
on the project and there will continue to be over the coming months so this is
an ideal time for people to join the project, get a feel for what we are about
and apply for the roles they are interested in.
WR: In what other ways does Thames Tideway Tunnel support the
careers of female employees?
JT: Our CEO, Andy Mitchell, is committed to achieving
gender parity over the life of the project, and it is clear that to achieve this, we
need to be a company that all people want to work for. We
are focusing on getting the basics right, taking
the values we promote, particularly flexible and inclusive working, through to
practice. We also support employee-driven activities through our
inclusivity forum, Encompass, which runs networking
events and actively helps inform potential new policies or programmes.
WR: Do you see this programme as a one-off?
JT: No we are very much committed to making The Tideway Returner Programme a regular part of our
overall resourcing and diversity plan. This is just the start of something we
hope to see long into the future.
WR: How can people find out more and apply?
JT: Please visit for more information and details on how to apply.
What advice would you give to prospective applicants?
A: If you are intrigued or interested, send in your CV
because you have nothing to lose! Even if you aren’t successful on the
programme there may be other opportunities we can consider you for in the
Posted by Julianne