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The Engineering Construction Industry Training Board (ECITB) and Global Underwater Hub have come together with STEM Returners to launch a new partnership to drive equality and diversity across the underwater industry.

A sector-wide STEM Returners programme will be delivered across multiple organisations within Global Underwater Hub’s membership network and will be open to professionals who are on a career break or are transferring their skills.

The aim of the 12-week programme is to provide candidates with real-work experience and mentoring during their placement, as well as supporting them to seamlessly adjust to life back in work.

STEM Returners, a leading return-to-work specialist, will engage the candidates for roles including Subsea Controls Engineer and Electrical Engineer, which will be based across the UK and offshore. Organisations have already committed to the programme, including Subsea7, J+S Subsea, PD&MS and Verlume.

The underwater industry offers an extensive range of career opportunities where science, technical, engineering or mathematical skillsets can be applied to help drive innovation, develop new technology and support the UK’s drive to net zero. The programme also aims to address the growing skills gap and need for diversification of skills to adapt to the ocean economy.

As the employer-led skills, standards and qualifications body for the development of the engineering construction workforce of Great Britain, the ECITB works with employers and training providers to attract, develop and qualify the workforce in a wide range of craft, technical and professional disciplines.

A key focus of its Leading Industry Learning Strategy is helping the engineering construction industry address recruitment and retention challenges.

ECITB Chief Executive Andrew Hockey, said: “A key focus of our STEM engagement work is to promote careers in engineering construction to under-represented groups, so we’re delighted to be supporting this new cross-sector programme aimed at helping get returners back to the workforce.

“In what is an incredibly tight skills market, this programme is a great initiative that enables employers across the underwater sector to attract experienced candidates from a new talent pool whilst improving their diversity and inclusion.

“These 12-week placements provide a valuable opportunity and route for talented people, who may previously have encountered difficulties coming back to work, to restart their career or transfer their skills into a new industry.

“Working in partnership with STEM Returners and Global Underwater Hub to pilot this fantastic programme has once again showcased the great value of collaboration as we look to meet the skills needs of industry.”

Helping underwater industry broaden its talent pool

Global Underwater Hub represents the diverse range of businesses operating in the UK’s £8 billion underwater industry and facilitates cross-collaboration and growth across the sector, which comprises offshore energy, aquaculture, defence, telecoms and marine science.

Neil Gordon, Chief Executive of Global Underwater Hub, said: “In order for the UK’s extensive underwater industry supply chain to support and deliver the energy transition in an efficient and timely manner, the right people with the right skills must be in place at the right time.

“The underwater industry spans many sectors, including offshore energy, marine science, defence and aquaculture.  It offers a range of career opportunities, particularly for those with STEM expertise and whose backgrounds may lie in engineering, research and development, science and data analysis.

“Providing a pathway for individuals to transition into or rejoin the underwater sectors following a career break is an excellent way to ensure the wider industry has the skills, knowledge and expertise it needs.

“Collaboration is a cornerstone of Global Underwater Hub and we are pleased to partner with STEM Returners and the ECITB to deliver this new industry-wide pilot programme. The initiative will help the underwater industry to broaden its talent pool and enable its continued growth.”

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.

Annual research from STEM Returners – The STEM Returners Index – shows 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.

Since STEM Returners first launched in 2017, more than 475 STEM Returners candidates have joined programmes across the UK.

Natalie Desty, Founder of STEM Returners, said: “We are delighted to be part of this new initiative with Global Underwater Hub and the ECITB, who share in our commitment to increase equity in STEM and improve the way people who are on a career break return to work.

“There is a misconception that a career break leads to a deterioration of skills but that could not be further from the truth.

“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 blue economy skills gap.”

Find out more about the underwater sector returner programme

Read the ECITB Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan

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