STEM professionals who have taken a career break often face barriers to re-entering the industry, with 66% claiming to find the process difficult and 46% claiming that they faced bias due to their lack of recent experience. However, providing opportunities to professionals who have taken a break might help address the current STEM skills shortage in the UK.

An innovative scheme to get women back into the tech space has been launched in partnership between Taylor Woodrow and Balfour Beatty VINCI SYSTRA JV (BBVS JV) with STEM Returners.

STEM professionals who have had a career break and want to return to the sector now have the opportunity to join a range of high-profile infrastructure projects. This includes joining BBVS JV, which Taylor Woodrow forms part of, who are building the iconic HS2 station in Old Oak Common, Northwest London.

Working across the rail, highways and energy sectors, Taylor Woodrow is committed to providing a wide range of opportunities to use and develop team member’s skills and help build a better future for us all.

STEM Returners will source candidates for the programme, which aims to return or transfer experienced engineers back into the industry following a career break. The fully paid placements act as a ‘returnship’, allowing candidates to be re-integrated into an inclusive environment upon their return to work.

Natalie Desty, Director of STEM Returners, which is based in Hampshire, said: “The projects which Taylor Woodrow has selected to be part of the programme offer a great range of opportunities.

Placements at Old Oak Common Station, which is set to be the UK’s best-connected station, will see candidates gain experience on HS2, the largest infrastructure project in Europe  – a fantastic opportunity for STEM professionals to return to the industry.

This new partnership will ensure that we have the pipeline of talent we need to fill vacancies in the engineering sector.

Isabel Walder, Resource Manager for Taylor Woodrow, said: “Taylor Woodrow is delighted to be entering into a partnership with STEM Returners to help bring talented individuals back into the industry.

“People are what make our projects a success. We are focussed on matching individual’s skills to the roles that will enable them to flourish and play their part in creating a positive legacy.”

Alpa Kapasi, Equality Diversity and Inclusion Manager at BBVS has expressed her commitment to securing the success of this exciting initiative: “As we strive to attract even more women into the sector, International Women’s Day provides a timely opportunity to launch this exciting initiative . This programme is just one of the measures that we are taking to address the under representation of women and other groups within our industry, whilst also providing opportunities to those who have been out of work for some time.

“We look forward to welcoming returners to our team and providing an accessible and inclusive environment where they can thrive.”

Annual research from STEM Returners (The STEM Returners Index) has revealed the challenges people who have had career break face, when trying to return – recruitment bias being the main barrier to entry. STEM Returners’ programme aims to eliminate these barriers, by giving candidates real work experience and mentoring during their placement and helping them to seamlessly adjust to life back in work.

Whilst the scheme helps solve the challenge of sourcing talent in sectors that need it, it also has the added benefit of increasing diversity in a host organisation. STEM Returners’ population of experienced professionals who are attempting to return to work are 46% female and 44% from ethnic minority groups, compared to 14% female and 9% from ethnic minority groups working in industry.

Natalie added: “Engineers who have a career break have the skills, dedication and passion to make a valuable contribution to any company. Only by partnering with industry leaders like Taylor Woodrow and BBVS will we make vital changes in STEM recruitment practices, to help those who are finding it challenging to return to the sector and improve diversity and inclusion.”

Since STEM Returners first launched in 2017, more than 310 STEM Returners candidates have joined programmes across the UK. To view STEM Returners opportunities, visit