AWE is stepping up its commitment to helping science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) professionals on a career break return to work by launching one of the largest STEM Returners programmes to date.

The programme, launched on National Engineering Day (Wednesday 1 November), will welcome a minimum of 30 industry returners over the next 18 months, across multiple disciplines such as science, engineering, and corporate business functions.

Roles will include engineers across all disciplines, physicists, chemists, project managers, compliance and safety professionals, and environmental specialists as well as IT, HR, and project controls.

AWE is partnering with STEM Returners, an organisation that helps employers recruit, develop and retain the best available talent, to enable highly qualified and experienced STEM professionals to re-start their career or transfer their skills. STEM Returners will help source candidates and support them with mentoring and career coaching services.

The new programme follows the success of AWE’s pilot STEM Returners programme last year, which helped 12 professionals return to work.

Natalie Desty, Director of STEM Returners said:

“We are delighted to mark National Engineering Day by launching one of our largest programmes to date and expanding our partnership with AWE offering a wide range of exciting opportunities to help more people return to industry.

“STEM Returners and AWE share a common commitment to improving the way the engineering industry views people who take a career break and increase equity in STEM. Only by partnering with industry leaders, like AWE, will we make vital changes in STEM recruitment practices, helping those who find it challenging to return to the sector and improve diversity and inclusion.”

Simon Perry, AWE’s Head of Talent Acquisition said:

“We’re delighted to be more than doubling the numbers we are recruiting as part of our STEM Returner programme after the success of last year’s scheme. AWE is striving to create workplaces where we recognise and celebrate differences, encourage diverse contributions and our employees feel able to be themselves at work. Our aim is to create a genuine culture of openness and inclusion at AWE and encourage diverse applicants.

“Taking a break doesn’t mean a career is curtailed. Through our STEM Returners programme candidates will be able to apply their skills, develop their potential and create their own success. Being part of AWE means making a real difference—by playing a crucial role keeping everyone and everything around us safe and secure for generations to come.”

There is a well-known skills shortage in the UK engineering industry but, despite a clear demand for people, talented and educated returners, who are willing and able to take on these roles, are often overlooked.

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, with recruitment bias shown to be the main barrier to entry.

STEM Returners’ programme aims to eliminate these barriers by giving candidates real work experience and mentoring during their placement, as well as supporting 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 45% female and 39% from minority ethnic background compared to 12% female and 9% BME working in industry.

Since STEM Returners first launched in 2017, more than 400 STEM Returners candidates have joined programmes across the UK. To view STEM Returners’ opportunities, visit


Notes to Editors
STEM Returners, returns highly qualified and experienced STEM professionals after a career break by working with employers who share the common objective of increasing diversity in STEM and creating a sector where everyone feels valued, supported and included. The STEM Returners project facilitates paid short-term employment placements for professionals returning to work after a career break. Alongside the experience gained from the work placement, the STEM Returners project will also provide support for the candidate in advice, career coaching, networking opportunities and mentoring.  All of the candidates going through the programme will also have the opportunity to restart their career in a permanent position at the end of the programme. This project is co-supported by the Institute of Marine Engineering, Science and Technology and the Women’s Engineering Society. STEM Returners was awarded the Maritime UK Diversity Award in 2020, the Diversity in Engineering Award by Enginuity in March 2021, and Best Returnship Programme by the Women in Tech Employer Awards in May 2022. In September 2021, Natalie Desty (Director) was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Engineering by Southampton Solent University to recognise her work in increasing diversity in STEM.