Opinion

A welcome back for returners

5 April 2019

Willmott Dixon’s resourcing manager Clare Francis on attracting returners back into the jobs market.

We know construction is facing a skills crisis, made even worse by Brexit uncertainty.

We have to be imaginative in meeting two challenges: attracting the next generation and reaching new pools of talent. This includes how we engage with people who have taken a career break and are itching to get back into work.

Willmott Dixon’s Welcome Back programme gives people who’ve had an extended career break a route back into work via construction. This is ideal for those with the right skills or who could be trained to develop them across the full range of business disciplines.

“We started in April 2018 and received over 100 applications. After assessment and interview, we welcomed five returners to Willmott Dixon in September.”

Clare Francis, Willmott Dixon

The programme was designed with an organisation called Women Returners. It’s a 20-week programme on a fixed-term contract basis, offering work experience along with a coaching programme that includes refresher training and new skills. For the right candidates, it leads to the opportunity for a permanent role.

It is designed to give returners the confidence and flexibility to find their feet in the business world. We started in April 2018 and received over 100 applications, all of whom were spoken to by one of our recruitment team. After assessment and interview, we welcomed five returners to Willmott Dixon in September.

One of our returners previously worked in construction but the others have a variety of backgrounds that include finance, aviation and events. Four out of five are working reduced hours or flexibly, which supports evidence that flexible working is one of the most important criteria for people returning after a career break.

We have continued to run the programme this year. One thing we have learned is that our people sharing information about our programme with their own local networks is as effective as any paid advert or promotion; hence the huge uplift in interest.

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