A TECHNOLOGY company is urging former engineers to return to the workplace in the wake of the Covid pandemic.

Leonardo, which has a factory in Southampton, has teamed up with the STEM Returners programme to offer new opportunities for people with experience.

The company, which employs more than 7,500 people across the UK, is keen to recruit experienced engineers whose skills are needed in for its long-term programmes, set to run until 2040.

STEM Returners, headquartered in Lyndhurst, aims to help engineers overcome the industry’s “career break curse” at a time when traditional recruitment is not filling the sector’s skills gap.

Leonardo’s STEM Returners programme will help people with STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) skills to restart their career and all returners who take part will have the opportunity of a job with the company.

The STEM Returners programme involves a 12-week paid placement for engineers to show their abilities. So far, 96 per cent have stayed in the industry.

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

Women currently hold only one in 10 UK engineering posts while only three out of 50 in the jobs are black and minority ethnic – but the STEM Returners programme has seen 46 per cent of places go to women and a third to people from a minority ethnic background.

STEM Returners recently carried out a study with the help of 350 engineers which found that two-thirds of engineers believe the recruitment process works against them.

Leonardo’s deputy head of electronics engineering, Dr Carol Marsh, has just been awarded an OBE for services to diversity and inclusion in electronics engineering. She worked for Leonardo as a digital engineer at the start of her career and after moving on to other companies, she took a four-year career break in her 40s to study a doctorate of engineering in system level integration.

She maintained contact with former colleagues at Leonardo and they were keen to call her when she completed her studies.

Dr Marsh said: “You are always an engineer and the skills you learn are still valuable, even when you aren’t doing an engineering role. You acquire transferrable skills in other areas of your life. Diversity drives innovation and gives us the competitive edge, so experienced engineers from a diverse range of backgrounds are very valuable to our business.”