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What can your business learn from ‘returnships’?

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Have you heard of ‘returnships’? If the answer’s ‘no’, you’re not alone. Apparently nine out of 10 employers and job candidates haven’t either.

But returnships are more than a buzzword. There’s a huge pool of talent currently going to waste: parents - usually mothers - who’ve taken extended career breaks to bring up children and are struggling to see a way back into work.

In a nutshell, returnships are a new kind of professional, paid internship designed for skilled, experienced people who’ve taken an extended break from the workplace and are now ready to return.

These positions tend to last between three and six months, and involve work suited to those people’s previous experience and rank with the possibility of a permanent role at the end if the arrangement goes well.

What’s in it for the returners?

For candidates with a long gap in their CV, a returnship can be a perfect way to ease themselves back into the workplace. There’s usually some kind of training and mentoring involved, which can help any self-doubt and low confidence - plus tackle rusty or out-of-date skills.

This type of short-term contract can also be a no-strings test drive back into working life with a chance to see if a demanding job still suits (particularly if the candidate continues to have caring commitments).

And even if a returnship ultimately ends without a permanent job, it can still mean recent CV experience and a fresh set of skills.

What’s in it for businesses?

If you’re a small business unable to compete with larger organisations when it comes to salary and benefits packages in the past, a returnship can be a valuable chance to bring in a highly-qualified candidate with a wealth of experience. You may also be able to plug a skills gap, or add to your management expertise.

With no obligation to offer a full-time role at the end, they’re also a low-risk way to try someone new out - a bit like ‘temp to perm’ in recruitment.

Changing perceptions

The government’s on board with returnships, releasing funding for returner schemes across the public sector to give training and support to people who’ve taken a break from the workforce.

But that doesn’t mean they’re right for every business. One recent survey asked a set of bosses if they’d consider a returnship programme - and 35% felt they didn’t have enough high-level roles to make it work.

If this is true for your own organisation, that needn’t stop you re-examining your attitudes.

For example, if someone is highly skilled but has a gap on their CV which turns out to be because they’ve been bringing up children or caring for an elderly relative, are you put off? Or can you spot potential and recognise that with the right nurturing they could become a huge asset to your business?

With the UK still experiencing a skills shortage, forward-thinking companies are taking a fresh look at talent that’s traditionally struggled to get back into work. It’s time to do the same, or risk missing out.

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