Sailing a 'Returnship' Back Into Gainful Employment
In scanning over LinkedIn this week, I came across a new employment program name I'd never seen before — something called a "returnship." It's mean to invoke the notion of an "internship" — See what they did there? — but instead of aiming at workforce newcomers, it's designed for people who have been employed before, but not recently.
Experienced workers sometimes leave the workforce for a variety of reasons, including having and rearing children, recovering from illness or injury, travel (or relocation to remain with a spouse who's accepted a job that involves relocation), eldercare, or for military service.
Whatever the reason for leaving the workforce, returnship programs specifically target individuals who want to return to work after a lengthy separation. Based on the various programs I've identified for IT professionals of this stripe, this appears to mean a period of under- or unemployment that has lasted 12 months or longer.
A Welcome Response to Pandemic Realities
Particularly for families with children up to 18 years old, learn-at-home programs to replace classroom instruction have required one parent to stay home to keep an eye on the kids. Most often, this means mothers have either reduced their work hours, or taken time away from work for childcare.
According to a Pew Research study cited by an InHerSight blog post, this applies to 42 and 39 percent of working mothers respectively. In fact, the same study also reports that 27 percent of working mothers have "quit work completely" because of familial responsibilities.
Beyond this substantial and important component of potential returnees, nearly one-third of small businesses in the USA have closed or failed since the pandemic started in earnest in March of last year(source: Politifact.com, June 2021).
As the economy improves and more jobs open up, numerous companies have started returnship programs that specifically target IT professionals (or those seeking to find work in IT), to help them transition back to work. Here's a list of nine such organizations with an IT-and-technology-oriented focus
Accenture Technology: Accenture is a leading name in the professional consulting and professional services sector. The company's Return to Work Program offers individuals who have been out of work for 18 months or more a 16-week paid program that includes training on current technologies and methodologies.
The training includes Cloud, AI, Automation, DevOps, and Agile that culminates in a project-based capstone assignment. Candidates who complete the program will be evaluated for full-time employment with the company.
Amazon Web Services (AWS): A leading global provider of cloud computing services and platforms, AWS offers its Returners program, which explicitly "welcomes builders from all backgrounds." Most positions for which training is available emphasize either cloud-oriented software development or data analysis roles of many kinds.
Applications are open to those who've been out of work for two or more years who would also like to find permanent employment with AWS upon program completion. The Returners site currently lists thousands of open positions in software development, solutions architect, project/program/product management, operations, IT and support engineering, and much, much more.
Bandwidth: Here we have a voice, messaging, and 911 service provider that offers VoIP, Unified Communications, and enterprise Telephony services. The Bandwidth Returnship Program offers a paid, 90-day plan for experienced workers who've been away from the workforce for three years or more and are looking for full-time employment.
HubSpot: Hubspot is an inbound marketing CRM platform that interacts with companies and customers to provide helpful information and solve problems, rather than selling specific solutions. The HubSpot Returners Program offers a 20-week (100-day) program to provide training, support and growth opportunities to help attendees upscale their skills, and make a meaningful and significant transition back to full-time work.
IBM: A top dog in the computing industry since it started in earnest in the late 1950s, IBM remains a major employer and a major source of technology platforms, tools, and products. IBM's Tech Re-Entry Program is a paid program that offers flexible learning options to help attendees refresh old skills and develop new ones.
People work with multi-disciplinary teams to create and deliver client-critical solutions, with fellow team members to provide support and reinforce learning. Mentors provide ongoing input and guidance, as candidates work on real projects to update skills and cultivate expertise. At the conclusion of the program, full-time employment may be offered.
HPE: Another huge name in technology, HPE covers the enterprise side of things for businesses, offering hardware, software, and services galore. HPE's program is named Career Reboot. Separated workers with more than five years' experience who've been away from work one year or more are eligible.
If their applications are accepted they will get a paid temporary assignment of up to 16 weeks, online training to refresh technical skills and knowledge, mentorship, buddy programs, and other means of personal and professionals support, plus a shot at a full-time HPE position at the end of the process.
Intuit: Here we have a well-known provider of software and services for financial and tax management and filing (e.g. TurboTax, my own tax prep and filing platform for more than 30 years). The "Intuit Again" returnship program offers attendees an opportunity to work on a team as they refresh old skills and apply newly-learned skills in a paid, 16-week sequence that is designed to be supportive and well-structured.
Microsoft: The maker of Windows, Office, Azure and more is the leading desktop OS provider and a major technology influencer. The company's Leap Apprenticeship Program seeks to "recruit, develop and upskill unconventional talent for employability into the technology industry worldwide."
A paid, 16-week apprenticeship program for individuals who already have a "base foundation of technical training," it incorporates classroom training with hands-on engineering projects for active, working teams that include groups from the Azure, Xbox, Bing and Office365 organizations within Microsoft.
PayPal: PayPal is the leading global payment processing and electronic payment company. PayPal's Recharge program comes in two forms. First is a 16-week program that includes training, practice, and skills development. Second is a three-week long bootcamp that compresses coverage into a minimum timeframe, best suited for those with recent technology skills and experience in need of a quick refresher.
Look Around: There May be More Returnships on the Waters
In fact, in the Meredith Roe InHerSight blog post that led me to most of these programs, she also mentions similar returnship offerings from other companies that include JP Morgan Chase, Walmart Labs, Morgan Stanley, GM, and NBCUniversal. I omitted covering their details — readily available in the original post — because those companies are not strictly IT- and/or technology-focused (though all have substantial technology IT bases and related opportunities).
Indeed, it seems like returnship and return-to-work programs are a real phenomenon and probably worth seeking out wherever your employment interests might lie. If you, or someone you know, has been away from work for a year or more with interests in returning to work in IT, returnship and return-to-work opportunities are clearly worth seeking (and trying) out.