Leonardo and STEM Returners Renew Commitment To Support Professionals Returning to Work after a Career Break

June 20, 2024
For the past four years, Leonardo in the UK has run STEM Returners programs at various sites across the UK, helping more than 40 professionals to return to the STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) industry.

Leonardo and STEM Returners are renewing their commitment to supporting more professionals back into work after a career break through a new program. 

For the past four years, Leonardo in the UK has run STEM Returners programs at various sites across the UK, helping more than 40 professionals to return to the STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) industry. The new commitment will see a further 10 professionals return before the end of the year.

The new program is launched in the lead-up to International Women in Engineering Day (INWED) and will see the 500th candidate embark on a STEM Returners scheme. 

Over the years, the programs have created a track record of success that has seen employees rise through the ranks of the organisations they join, proving that the application of transferrable skills has a powerful impact on enhancing a company’s workforce.

One of the greatest success stories to emerge to date is Cathy Cojeen, who took a career break to care for her children, but when she was ready to return to work she felt she did not match the job specifications. Cathy initially joined Leonardo for a STEM Returners work placement and now works in a senior role in a flourishing area of their business, leading projects to produce space technology in Southampton. Cutting-edge innovation emerging from the business includes sensors that can monitor thermal hot spots in urban areas to help the fight against climate change and sensors that can track populations of phytoplankton around the globe for NASA, so essential for the health of both people and planet earth. 

Cathy said: “While I had a secure job in teaching, I felt drawn to finding a role in the engineering industry to build on my engineering degree and my diverse background in consultancy work, banking and education. The technology we are building in Southampton has a global impact and I find it so stimulating working in this environment day to day. I needed that career change to feel fulfilled and when I was looking to transition to a new role, I used to read up on all the latest developments in engineering – now I get to work on them each day. 

“I could have so easily missed this chance if I had listened to well-meaning friends who reminded me we were in the middle of a pandemic. The truth is there is never really a convenient time to make that leap – you can overcome the challenges if you just keep focused on the change you want to see in your life. 

“I have now developed an advanced range of skills which will help me build my career even further, including increased business awareness and modernising processes to drive efficiency.”

Natalie Desty, director of STEM Returners, said: “Leonardo UK has become one of our most supportive allies in trying to eliminate the career break curse. We share similar objectives of increasing the numbers of returners in the workplace, helping people understand the benefits of inclusion and diversity and raising awareness of unconscious bias. 

“Whilst the program is open to all returners, INWED presents an opportunity to highlight the disparity of women in STEM and those wanting to return to a STEM role. Forty-six percent of our returners are women, which is significantly higher than the number of women working in the industry, which is just 10.4 percent. 

“We are very proud to be continuing our partnership with Leonardo and hope it will enable more people to return to the profession they love. Only by working together to create a supportive and inclusive environment where returners can really thrive.”

Rachel Ruxton, head of Inclusion and Diversity at Leonardo, said: “Collaborating with STEM Returners has allowed us to connect with talented individuals who have become a huge asset to our teams, since they bring a diversity of thought and a freshness of perspective that greatly enhances our innovation. We could have missed out on these vital opportunities, as these professionals might not have otherwise considered Leonardo as a potential employer. We are excited about continuing our journey with STEM Returners to open the door wider to diverse talent, which is so crucial to the future progression of our advanced technology.”  

STEM Returners was launched in 2017 after Natalie saw how hard it was for people with a gap on their CV to return to the sector. Since it launched, STEM Returners has worked with leading STEM firms across the country including many within the UKNEST partnership, a forum that promotes the Engineering, Science and Technology interests of UK Naval Defence, of which Leonardo is a key member. Two hundred returners have found roles in UKNEST partners. 

Matt Bolton, chief executive of UKNEST, said: “There is a well-known skills shortage across the UK defense industry and people on a career break offer a valuable source of experience and expertise for our sector. The STEM Returners program has gone from strength to strength over the years and I am proud to see so many returners being placed with UKNEST partners. We will continue to work together to ensure more opportunities are available for people on a career break and organizations are doing all they can to improve their recruitment processes.”