New returners programme in Luton to drive gender equality in construction

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A new returners programme is being launched in Luton to help improve gender imbalances across the construction industry.

The programme is a partnership between Wates and STEM Returners and will support people who have had a career break back employment.

The programme at the Wates Luton/Warrington/Leatherhead site will include opportunities across Wates’ construction business, including in site manager, project manager and project engineer roles.

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Return-to-work specialists STEM Returners will source the candidates and provide career coaching and mentoring.

Improving gender balance in the construction industryImproving gender balance in the construction industry
Improving gender balance in the construction industry

The new programme follows the success of the first partnership between Wates and STEM Returners last year which helped six returners back to industry.

One of those people was Anwesha Gupta, who was able to secure a role as a Bid Manager after a two-year career break to look after her young daughter after moving to the UK. Prior to finding the opportunity at Wates, Anwesha, found it difficult to reach recruiters and secure an interview through standard recruitment channels, despite her 11 years’ experience in the civil and structural industry.

“Most of the time I was told that they saved my resume for future reference. It was tricky to secure a further interview as I didn’t have prior UK experience,” she said.

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“There was a point when I started to feel that it was tough to get a suitable role after a career break. But with the help and connection of STEM Returners I am now able to move forward with my career.

“There are certain circumstances in people’s lives where they need to interrupt their professional journey in order to take care of other things such as family life and health. But that doesn’t mean the end of their career.”

Annual research from STEM Returners (The STEM Returners Index) highlights 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’ programmes aim 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.

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Natalie Desty, Director of STEM Returners said: “Stories like Anwesha’s are very common. Despite excellent skills, knowledge and experience, a gap on a CV puts you at a disadvantage, which shouldn’t be the case.

“We are delighted to be continuing our partnership with Wates, who share in our commitment to improving the way the engineering and construction industries view people who take a career break and increase equity in STEM. Only by working together, will we make vital changes in recruitment practices, to help those who are finding it challenging to return to the sector and bridge the well-known skills gap while improving diversity and inclusion.”

Nikunj Upadhyay, Inclusion and Diversity Director at Wates Group, said: “We are delighted to continue our partnership with STEM Returners to ensure talented individuals are not held back from pursuing a meaningful career of choice. We look forward to welcoming them into our business. For us, this programme is a bridge where experience meets opportunity, paving the way for a brighter, more inclusive, and diverse tomorrow.”

Since STEM Returners first launched in 2017, more than 450 STEM Returners candidates have joined programmes across the UK. To view STEM Returners’ opportunities, visit

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