“Returnships” For Over 50s – A Solution To Britain’s Skill Shortage?

Despite the global uncertainty caused by Brexit, the UK employment market is buoyant. The problem now is that there are not enough skilled workers to fill the jobs, the UK is facing a skills shortage.

Unemployment levels have fallen to the lowest levels in more than a decade, and there are fewer people to take new jobs. The chief executive of the Recruitment and Employment Confederation, Kevin Green explains, “We have the lowest unemployment rate since 2005, and people already in work are becoming more hesitant about moving jobs amid Brexit uncertainty.”

Brexit has exacerbated the problem, putting-off skilled EU workers. A Deloitte study finds 47% were considering leaving after Brexit, while overall one-third of non-British workers could leave in the next five years.

The shortage occupation list published by the UK  government shows the abundance of skilled jobs classified as a ‘shortage’, with the engineering sector hit the hardest. The list includes production managers and directors for mining and energy and IT professionals.

Could returnships offer a solution to the skills shortage in the UK?

An image of a senior businesswoman in a meeting.

Recent research by PwC estimated there are some 427,000 professionally qualified women looking to return to work following a career break, with 3 in 5 women returning to lower skilled and lower paid jobs. And that’s not considering the increasing number of men taking career breaks, which although not as prominent as with women is still very common.

These workers are well-experienced and highly skilled but currently, only a select few are securing the senior positions they are capable of.

A significant put-off to recruiters is a gap in career history, with many holding the misconception that the workers no longer possess the skills they have.

Recruiters often assume that career skills reset after a career break. This is the reason so many skilled, educated and highly trained workers struggle to find their way back towards employment after a break.

Returnships are on the rise and offer a way of filling these highly-skilled jobs in demand which are at a shortage. Some of the UK’s biggest companies are launching returnships for women and men to get back into work.

£5 million was pledged by the government with Prime Minister Theresa May stating: ‘More often than not, it is women who give up their careers to devote themselves to motherhood, only to find the route back into employment closed off — the doors shut to them. She continued, ‘This isn’t right, it isn’t fair, and it doesn’t make economic sense.’

Those who have taken a career break are by no means unemployable, with a unique skillset and decades of experience behind them which would prove an asset to any company. Returnships are a bridge back into the world of work and more senior, high-skilled roles for experienced professionals.

‘A waste of talent’

An image of a man and a woman working after a returnship.

Credit: Rawpixel

The challenges faced towards women returning to work costs the UK an estimated £1.7bn a year in lost economic output.

It’s not only a loss of to the economy but ‘It’s a real waste of talent and experience.’ explains Julianne Miles, co-founder of networking organisation Women Returners, speaking to the Daily Mail.

More and more firms are offering returners programmes including EY, O2, Virgin Media, Skanska and KPMG, although the number is still very limited considering there are half a million women and a significant amount of men who have had a career break and are actively seeking work.

The few schemes that are operating have proven to work. The Daily Mail speaks with Adriana Ennab, who after a 16-year break got back into banking at 52 after a returnship with Credit Suisse.

Now aged 55 Adriana is the director of public policy with Credit Suisse and is content with her career explaining she feels,  ‘energised and invigorated.’

Returnship schemes are in rising demand and Adriana’s success shows their potential.

Career break prejudice

An image of a man training on a returnship after a career break.

The prejudices to those who have taken career breaks cause unnecessary barriers to entry to highly adept and experienced workers, marginalising this group and putting their talents and skills to waste.

As Julianne Miles states, “It’s not just about returners – it’s about opening the minds of companies to people who have had career breaks more broadly.”

With unemployment levels the lowest they’ve been since 2005 and an occupational shortage for skilled jobs which will only increase as skilled EU employees leave the UK in light of Brexit, there is a large gap to fill.

The abundance of men and women seeking to return to employment looks like an obvious solution to fill these roles and help solve the growing skills shortage.


Share this story.

Go to Top