Skanska pilot will reintegrate workers who take career breaks

Skanska is launching a pilot scheme to provide work opportunities for highly qualified employees who take a career break.

Amid a shortage of skilled workers in the industry, the tier one firm will work with STEM Returners, a programme that helps to reintegrate professionals who are trained in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields.

The scheme will initially open up opportunities in planning roles at Skanska, with other openings expected down the line. It will run for 12 weeks in what the firm is calling a “returnship”.

Candidates, who will be fully funded for the course, will be sourced via STEM Returners. On completion of the course, successful candidates may be offered full-time jobs at Skanska UK.

The programme is also intended to help diversify the workforce, with research from STEM Returners revealing that minority groups are disproportionally affected by recruitment bias in construction.

Skanska UK head of recruitment Catherine Mooney said: “We recognise the importance of a diverse approach to recruitment, and this is an imaginative way for us to reach highly experienced candidates who have taken some time out of work, yet who possess a range of relevant skills.”

According to data from the STEM Returners scheme, workers who have had a career break are hit by “hidden barriers” that make it hard for them to re-enter the workplace through traditional recruitment routes. These barriers include unconscious bias during shortlisting, hiring pressures and misconceptions around gaps on a CV.

STEM Returners equity, diversity and inclusion lead Anouska Carling said that partnering with “industry leaders” such as Skanska was crucial to driving change in the recruitment practices of the industry.

In March, fellow contractor Wates announced that it was looking to partner with the programme to increase the proportion of women in construction.

The Office for National Statistics reports that 13 per cent of construction workers are women. In engineering the split is 16.5 per cent, while it is only 1 per cent for tradespeople.

The need to rethink skills in the industry also comes with the pressure of increased vacancies. In the three months leading to March 2022, there were 48,000 vacancies in the industry.

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