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Atkins commits to gender diversity

Atkins, part of the SNC-Lavalin Group, has demonstrated its commitment to addressing gender imbalance in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) careers, partnering with STEM Returners to offer professional internships to engineers who have taken a career break.

Each internship will last for 13 weeks and will see returnees undertake CV-worthy assignments with the organisation. By the end of 2018, Atkins will be offering 10 placements in the North West, South West and South East respectively. 

The Returners Programme will see participants shadow engineers, take part in personal and professional training, and contribute to noteworthy projects. Participants will also receive confidence training and career mentoring. In addition to gaining invaluable work experience and guidance, those taking part will receive professional pay, and may be offered a permanent position or contract role at the end of the programme.

For Atkins, partaking in the pilot programme will provide access to a more diverse candidate pool, as those who have taken a career break can be wrongly perceived as having fewer skills and are often not represented by recruitment companies. The biggest talent gap is in the mid-senior level, so this programme provides an opportunity for highly qualified and experienced professional women to increase gender diversity at senior levels.

Philip Hoare, chief executive of SNC-Lavalin’s Atkins business in the UK & Europe, said: “We are committed to providing an inclusive working environment for all our staff. By offering experienced candidates a programme of support as they return to the workplace from a career break, we will benefit from increased diversity, a reduced skills gap and access to a set of soft skills that can be overlooked by recruiters. I’m looking forward to welcoming our returners in September 2018, and we will be participating in more programmes like this one in the future.” 

The STEM Returners Programme was created to offer experienced candidates a route back into engineering following a career break. Open to both men and women, it is also hoped that the programme will positively impact female representation within the sector, which is currently between eight and 12 percent. 

According to a PwC report published in 2016, three in five professional women returning to the workforce are likely to move into lower-skilled or lower-paid roles. In response to the report, research conducted by Prospect suggested that the barriers to women returning to work could be addressed by low cost interventions, such as career coaching, confidence boosting, connecting with employers and challenging negative perceptions with recruiting and hiring managers. By posting returners in long-standing vacancies, the programme has also found an innovative solution to the industry’s skills gap.

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