A SCHEME is under way to get former engineers back into the industry through work with defence and security giant BAE Systems.

The multinational firm has teamed up with Lyndhurst-based STEM Returners to help beat what the New Forest company calls the “career break curse”.

The STEM Returners programme offers engineers a 12-week paid placement in BAE Systems’ maritime division in Portsmouth, with a focus on mechanical, electrical and design engineering, among other roles.

When BAE ran pilot programmes in 2018 and 2019, all those who joined it were kept on in permanent jobs.

Natalie Desty, director of STEM Returners, said: “There are lots of initiatives to cater to the next generation of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) workers but the STEM Returners programme is aimed specifically at those wishing to go back to engineering mid-career.”

The programme also aims to reduce the gender gap in the sector, with only one in 10 engineering posts held by women.

Dorota Lipinska, who took part in BAE Portsmouth’s pilot programme, had struggled to find a role in engineering despite having a master’s degree.

She said: “I was working and volunteering but not in the engineering field.

“Whilst volunteering I was constantly looking for opportunities within my profession, and when I found out about STEM Returners, I decided to try and get into engineering with their help.”

She ended up becoming a permanent design engineer, working on a variety of defence projects.

“My dream came true,” she said.

“My skills were recognised and I finally started my career in engineering. I can now continue to develop and at the same time add value to the company.”

Almost half the returners across all STEM Returners’ programmes are women.

The Women in Engineering Society has estimated that up to 20,000 qualified female engineers could potentially fill job vacancies after career breaks.

Dr Graham Farnell, engineering director of BAE Systems Maritime, said: “Finding exceptional talent to help us deliver first class engineering and technical support to our customers is fundamental to our business.

“The work we do across the engineering disciplines to design, build, maintain and upgrade ships, and the support and equipment we provide to people, is absolutely vital in assisting the Royal Navy achieve its operational commitments on behalf of the UK across the globe.”