A training scheme is targeting parents and carers in the North East to help them return to tech and engineering careers.

The second intake for a free return to work support programme has just been launched in Newcastle.

STEM ReCharge provides career coaching, job skills training, mentoring and technical refresh sessions to parents and carers in the Midlands and North of England who want to return to engineering or tech after a career break of a year or more.

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The programme is being delivered by Women Returners and STEM Returners and is funded by the Government Equality Hub and supported by the Minister for Women and Equalities, Kemi Badenoch and the Minister for Women, Maria Caulfield. The first intake of the programme in May supported more than 40 parents and carers.

Returners can apply for the next programme starting in October here.  

Priyanka Bondre, from Newcastle, took part in the first programme. In 2019, she left her job in India to join her husband in the UK and then took an extended career break to care for their young daughter.

But despite a bachelor's degree in computer science, an MBA in IT Management and more than 10 years’ experience in IT, Priyanka still found it difficult to get back into the workplace.

The Northern Echo: Kemi Badenoch and Maria CaulfieldKemi Badenoch and Maria Caulfield (Image: Press release)

With her daughter starting school in September, STEM ReCharge came at just the right time and was the boost she needed.

“It has been wonderful to be a part of the STEM Recharge programme,” Priyanka said. “The programme gave me a confidence boost to resume my professional journey. I am enrolled in a Data Engineer bootcamp and thrilled to reskill and re-enter the workforce."

The programme has received support from tech firms across the regions. As part of the programme, local employer volunteers have delivered invaluable update sessions on a variety of tech and engineering topics. One of the employers involved was global technology leader Sage, which is headquartered in Newcastle. 

Fatima Nixon, Talent Acquisition Partner – Pathways, Sage, said: “Digital literacy is key to the UK remaining a global tech hub and access to support must remain at the heart of efforts to increase our country’s tech skills.

The post-pandemic world of work has seen both women and carers leave the sector at an alarming rate. If we are to have a diverse and innovative tech industry, we must create paths for them to return to work, which is why we are proud to support STEM ReCharge, which is helping to create sustainable routes into tech careers.”

Newcastle is recognised as one of most important tech hubs in the UK, and is a leading smart city, supported by the area’s excellent digital connectivity and infrastructure.

It is one of the most vibrant digital clusters outside of London, with the fastest growing digital sector in England (+30.7%, 2017-2017). The latest UK projections suggest a net growth in engineering roles of 2.8% compared to 2.3% in all occupations, which will result in 173,000 new engineering and technology jobs by 2030. Estimates from Microsoft suggest that, globally, there will be 149 million new jobs in software, data, AI, machine learning and cyber by 2025.

STEM ReCharge tackles the barriers returners face with a comprehensive programme of coaching, training and mentoring as well as making connections with employers. The project is also training local employers to be more inclusive of returners in their recruitment practices.

Priyanka added: "People on a career break may lack confidence or doubt their abilities, some may not know where to begin or what to expect. This programme helps to build confidence and develop a career roadmap through Career Coaching and Job Skills workshops, the STEM ReFresh week sessions and the mentoring sessions”.


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Julianne Miles, CEO of Women Returners, said: “It’s fantastic to see that we’re already making such a strong impact with the STEM ReCharge support programme. After a decade of supporting professionals to return to work, we’re well aware of the multiple challenges returners face, particularly in technical fields.

"With our first STEM ReCharge cohort, we’re already seeing the power of a targeted support programme, rebuilding confidence, skills, knowledge and networks, to enable these talented returners to get back into great jobs. We’re really looking forward to welcoming the second cohort in October.”

Natalie Desty, Director of STEM Returners, said: “To see the positive impact STEM ReCharge is already having is very rewarding. As an industry, we need to do more to increase the opportunity for returners in STEM and lower the barriers they face when they try to resume their careers.

"We would like to encourage returners and employers to take advantage of this free programme and work together to help more parents and carers return to work.”