Sea Technology

APR 2018

The industry's recognized authority for design, engineering and application of equipment and services in the global ocean community

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www.sea-technology.com April 2018 | ST 41 Natalie Desty is the workforce development di- rector for The In- stitute of Marine Engineering, Sci- ence and Tech- nology (IMarEST), www.imarest.org, the international professional body and learned society for all marine profession- als. IMarEST is the first Institute to bring together marine engineers, scientists and technologists into one international multidisciplinary professional body. D espite various continuing initia- tives, maritime employers are still faced with two key issues: lack of women and the skills gap. With female diversity in maritime falling well below the 10 to 12 percent en- gineering average and a shortage of candidates, despite rising require- ments, we must do something dif- ferent. If we keep recruiting in the same talent pools, we will keep get- ting the same results. The solution? Make 2018 the year of the returnship. A returnship is basically an in- ternship for experienced workers who want to go back to work after a long break. Despite success in other sectors, returnships are unfortunate- ly rare in engineering, none more so than in the maritime sector. Mar- itime, like the majority of engineer- ing, really needs to improve its im- age to attract a diverse workforce. A 2015 survey by the Women's Engineering Society (WES) found that 70 percent of women in STEM are anxious about taking a career break; 60 percent of STEM wom- en reported barriers in returning to work after a career break; 20 per- cent of STEM women said employ- ers are not supportive of working mothers; 18 percent said colleagues aren't supportive either; and 57 per- cent of women give up their mem- bership of professional bodies be- fore the age of 45, compared to 16 percent of men. However, maritime is also a sec- tor that is continually innovating. In just the last five years, it has seen huge and unprecedented develop- ment in autonomous innovation. But what about progress in recruit- ment and employee diversity? Returner programs are designed to attract and enable diverse can- didates who are "lost" to tradition- al recruitment methods. A CV gap is often an insurmountable barrier to recruitment, viewed as a major technical skills and knowledge gap. It can also lead to would-be return- ers losing confidence in finding a way back to work. That means a huge amount of talent and invest- ment in people is wasted. Returner programs provide a link to this lost talent and attract those candidates wishing to transfer their engineering skills between industries, in the pro- cess building a more flexible and responsive workforce for both em- ployee and employer needs. It also bypasses recruitment biases so in- grained in our standard recruitment processes that alienate those with a CV gap or who require a flexible working situation. Alarmed by the number of "lost women" uncovered by research for its 2016 annual report, the Wom- en and Work APPG report recom- mends that employers with 250 or more employees should consider putting in place paid returner pro- grams with guaranteed training, ad- vice and support. Similarly, the 2016 PWC report "Women Returners" recommends: recruiters and employers reassess how they evaluate a candidate's potential and work to address the negative bias towards CV gaps; re- turnships as a route back to mid- to-senior-level engineering roles, with transitional support to upskill and support returnees; and increas- ing the availability of part-time and flexible opportunities in profession- al roles to widen the talent pool that businesses can access. The report states many statistics that substan- tiate the very real business need to re-engage lost talent: around 427,000 highly technically skilled female professionals who are on career break want to return to the workforce in the future; three in five professional women returning to the workforce are likely to move into lower-skilled or lower-paid roles, experiencing an immedi- ate earnings reduction of up to a third; 29,000 women who return to the workforce on a part-time basis will be underemployed; two- thirds of professional women could be working below their potential when they return to the workforce; addressing the career break penal- ty could boost female earnings by £1.1 billion annually; the multiplier effect from the higher earnings and spending power of these women generates additional gains to the U.K. economy of £1.7 billion; and business action, including combat- ing the negative bias towards CV gaps, increasing the availability of part-time and flexible opportunities and helping women transition back to work, can help address the career break penalty. In direct response to this loss of talent, The Institute of Marine, Engineering, Science and Technol- ogy (IMarEST) and WES launched STEM Returners, www.stemreturn ers.com, in November 2017, a paid 13-week employment placement for professionals returning to work after a career break or looking to transfer between sectors, with the possibility of ongoing employment at the end of the program. The pro- gram provides confidence building, training, career coaching, network- ing opportunities and peer support. The goal is to challenge industry to think differently about CV gaps and flexible working. Wärtsilä, Dstl, ATLAS ELEKTRONIK and Babcock have already signed up, creating opportunities for overlooked talent that deserves more attention. ST soap box 2018: The Year of the Returner?—Natalie Desty

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