in Aerospace / Defence / Security

Leonardo continues drive to help UK engineers back to work

Posted 30 May 2022

Leonardo and STEM Returners have joined forces for the fourth time to help engineers overcome the ‘career break curse’ and get back to work after taking a career break.

Above: Natalie Desty, Director of STEM Returners.
Courtesy STEM Returners

Individuals who take a career break from the industry often find they are not taken seriously as job candidates when they wish to restart their STEM (science, technology, engineering, maths) careers, due to the career gap on their CV. STEM Returners is working to overturn this bias by working with industry leaders to highlight the experience and transferrable skills gained by professionals during any career break.

Leonardo will offer a STEM Returners programme at their bases in Southampton and Basildon and roles will include Software Engineers and Systems Engineers.

This is the fourth programme Leonardo has run, following the success of their existing programmes at their sites in Southampton, Yeovil, Luton and Basildon, helping to return 20 engineers back to the STEM industry.

STEM Returners, based in Hampshire, will source candidates for the programme, which acts as a ‘returnship’, allowing candidates to be reintegrated into an inclusive environment upon their return to STEM.

Annual research from STEM Returners (The STEM Returners Index) has revealed the challenges people face when trying to return to work, following a career break. Recruitment bias is shown to be the main barrier to entry.

Natalie Desty, Director of STEM Returners said: “We are very proud to be continuing our partnership with Leonardo to return highly skilled people back into the industry they love. We share a common desire to change outdated recruitment practices that prevent so many highly skilled and talented people from returning to work. Only by working together to create a supportive and inclusive environment where returners can really thrive, will we deal with the well-known skills shortage in the UK engineering industry.”

One of Leonardo’s STEM Returners’ success stories is Cathy Cojeen, from Southampton, who did a placement with Leonardo before joining the company full time as a Project Engineer. Before joining Leonardo, the University of Southampton graduate wanted to return to engineering after having children, but felt she would not match the specifications on job adverts.

Cathy said: “I was fortunate to secure a place on the STEM Returners programme in the pilot year for Leonardo. This scheme allows people like me to return to an engineering career, through an initial 12-week learn-as-you-go period with a very supportive team. Having previously spent time as a maths and science teacher – which fitted in well when I had a young family – this career change has been a great opportunity to build on my engineering degree and diverse background in consultancy work, banking and education. Seeing my transferable teaching and leadership skills recognised in this industry has been fantastic and the perfect opportunity for me to work in the defence sector.”

The STEM Returners’ programme aims to eliminate barriers, by giving candidates real work experience and mentoring during their placement, as well as helping them to seamlessly adjust to life back in work.

Whilst the scheme helps solve the problem of sourcing talent in sectors that need it, it also has the added benefit of increasing diversity in a host organisation. STEM Returners’ population of experienced professionals attempting to return to work are 51% female and 38% from diverse ethnic minority groups, compared to 10% female and 6% diverse ethnic minority groups working in the STEM industry.

Successful candidates may be offered full-time positions at Leonardo upon the completion of their 12-week placement. Since STEM Returners launched in 2017, more than 260 STEM Returner candidates have joined programmes across the UK. To view STEM Returners availabilities, visit

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