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Thales offers opportunities to renew STEM careers through return-to-work scheme

Fresh talent is being attracted to Thales through a partnership helping qualified workers to return to careers in technology.

In companies across the UK, the demand for engineers is outstripping supply. The problem is exacerbated by the number of qualified people who, for a variety of reasons, have left the industry in recent years.

STEM Returners is a UK-wide organisation that runs a programme offering these qualified and experienced people a route back into STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) careers through work placements with potential employers.

Motivated individuals wanting to return after a career break receive advice, career coaching, networking opportunities and mentoring as a supported route back into work. And in return, UK companies get to recruit, develop and retain the best candidates from a whole new pool of talent, creating a more diverse, agile and innovative workforce.

As part of the scheme, Thales offered four, paid work placements in Reading and Glasgow, with the possibility of a permanent role at the end.

Hayley Holguin grabbed the opportunity after seeing an ad for STEM Returners on a job-search website. A graduate in Mechanical and Power Plant Systems from Glasgow Caledonian University, Hayley had worked for seven years in an aviation as a Systems Engineer, Reliability Engineer and Programme Management. However, the Covid lockdown interrupted her career.

“I went back home to Scotland during the pandemic and when my work offered voluntary redundancy, I took it. Being back in Scotland made me want to stay closer to my family.”

Hayley took a job in a local school as a health and wellbeing assistant, but after a while she decided to return to engineering once the economy reopened.

“When you’re in a STEM job, you wonder about different kinds of work and it’s tempting to test the water elsewhere,” she said. “But you can be reminded why you chose a STEM job in the first place and be drawn back.”

After responding to the STEM Returners ad, she was interviewed and matched up with a 12-week placement at Thales, Glasgow.

“I was delighted to get a permanent role because a friend of mine from university went to Thales and I’ve followed his career, so Thales has always been on my radar,” said Hayley.

She explained how she benefited from her Returners placement: “It’s daunting going into a new job, especially after you’ve spent some time away. You worry if you’ll remember everything, if you can still work to the same standard, and how you’ll adjust to a work environment again. 

STEM Returners is a great option if people are nervous about getting back into engineering.

Through STEM Returners, Hayley received advice and career coaching to familiarise with Thales and its systems, with realistic goals and expectations set from the start.

She added: “Thales was also brilliant, providing mentoring, and internal learning resources about what processes are done, and where. For anyone put off a STEM career from a previous experience, Thales can give a whole new perspective; it’s such a friendly, inclusive environment.”

During the placement, Hayley worked on several projects before she was offered a permanent, systems engineering position, managing a project in emerging technologies.

Hayley believes her way into Thales offers mutual benefit: “Returners have picked up additional life experiences from their time away and can bring a new perspective to the job. 

“I hope that if I end up going in the management direction, my experience working in health and wellbeing will help me to appreciate other people’s needs.”

Minister for Women and Equalities, Kemi Badenoch launched a new initiative on International Day of Women and Girls in Science, 11 February 2023, to help people back into STEM careers which will also be run by STEM Returners.

More information about the STEM Returners programme, can be found at the STEM Returners website.