Supporting the step back into STEM careers highlights outdated perceptions that career breaks are obstacles and interruptions. The guide points out that highly skilled and experienced engineers and other STEM professional wanting to return to the workplace are often side-lined in favour of candidates with continuous service, which is exacerbating the skills shortage.

According to Jeremy Watson, IET President, “STEM employers should view career breaks as periods of self-development and develop a culture that accommodates and values these breaks and the skills and competence of those members of staff who are currently being overlooked and side-lined.”

Employers also need to recognise the need for workforce diversity and do more to attract recruits from a wider talent pool. This might include looking at other professions, such as medicine and accountancy that have been more successful at attracting a diverse workforce. It also means working with parents and teachers to promote engineering as a creative, rewarding and exciting profession for girls, as well as boys.

Best practice tips for employers highlighted in the guide include offering flexible working, reviewing policies and benefits, rethinking how and where they advertise jobs, and explaining to recruitment agencies that they welcome returners.

Developing a more inclusive and diverse internal culture is also crucial. “It’s widely recognised that diverse teams perform well as there’s a wide range of skills. Engineering has a massive impact on our day-to-day lives, from the transport we use to get to various destinations, right down to the smaller, but equally innovative gadgets we use in our work and leisure time like mobile phones and iPads. In order to keep the engineering industry vibrant and fresh with innovative ideas we need to ensure that our workforce is diverse.”