Returner programmes are increasing diversity at the BBC

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Women and men take career breaks for many reasons, but can find it difficult to return to work through the normal channels
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Women and men take career breaks for many reasons, but can find it difficult to return to work through the normal channels

There are more than 70 returner programmes operating across the UK now, compared to just three in 2014

BBC Design + Engineering is the technology team behind the corporation's delivery of TV, radio and online services to millions of people worldwide, every day, and Sue Mosley is one of the team's HR business partners, focusing on improving gender diversity.

We talked to Mosley about why the broadcaster sees the upcoming Women in Tech Festival as a platform to showcase what the BBC is doing to create a more diverse talent pipeline.

Why is the BBC partnering with the Women in Tech Festival?

"This is an opportunity to showcase the technology division and promote the many varied professions within this area.

"It's also a great opportunity for individuals to meet like-minded people, network and hopefully come away with some new, insightful knowledge."

How is the BBC encouraging women and girls to engage more with design and software engineering?

"Last November we launched the BBC Step into Tech course, which is a free, part-time programme that runs over 14 weeks. The course teaches the fundamentals of software engineering, including the skills needed for associate software engineer roles within our Design + Engineering division.

"The pilot programme delivered training to 16 women, all of whom were from non-tech backgrounds. For example, some of those professions included individuals who worked in teaching, administration, customer services, legal and project management.

"15 of the 16 completed the pilot programme, and 13 have secured new careers within software engineering."

How do you convince those with a non-technical background, or with non-related qualifications, that tech has a place for them?

"Showcasing relevant role models who work in the tech sector and have come from non-tech backgrounds is important. We need to encourage them to share their stories, and to inspire others to consider a career in our sector.

"You don't have to be a techie to work in tech! We've already evidenced people of that with the Step into Tech programme."

What is the BBC Career Returner Programme, and what impact has it had?

"BBC Design + Engineering launched the Career Returners Programme at the beginning of 2019, to help make the division a more accessible environment for women and men who have taken a career break of more than two years, and wish to return to the workplace.

"Seven people took part in the programme, all of whom had taken career breaks ranging from two to 10 years.

"These highly experienced individuals have extensive skills and experience in software engineering, business analytics, project and product management. As well as bringing a wide range of skills into the BBC, the programme is helping to make positive steps towards increasing diversity in the division, especially at the mid-level of seniority.

"Women and men take career breaks for many reasons, and a high percentage of these people are so keen to get back into the workplace but find it extremely challenging through the usual recruitment channels.

"In 2014, there were only three returner programmes running in the UK. Now there are 70 plus, and this is testimony that these programmes really do work... This talent pool is a great recruitment channel to help bridge so many skills gaps."

Mosley shared feedback from line managers of two of the BBC's ‘returners':

"Both of the returners in my team have strengthened the team and made many positive contributions during their time with us. Their eagerness to grow and succeed is infectious; those around them not only want the returners to succeed, but hold themselves and the team to higher standards as a result. The extensive experience they bring from different domains grants them perspective and confidence, which reduces the time they take to get up to speed compared with less-experienced new hires."

And from a professional who has gone through the Career Returners Programme:

"After a long career break due to sickness, the gap on my CV was proving a big barrier to finding employment. Each rejection email or, worse, lack of response became ever more demoralising. Being invited to an interview at the BBC was a huge boost, then being offered my current role just before Christmas felt like the best present. Even though I've only been in position for two months I feel completely part of the team. The extra training, coaching and mentoring offered by the Career Returner Programme have been extremely welcome, and it's wonderful to be back at work, feeling part of the 'real' world again."

Logo for the Computing and CRN Women in Tech Festival 2019

Computing and CRN have united to present the Women in Tech Festival UK 2019, on 17th September in London.

The event will celebrate successful women in the IT industry, enabling attendes to hear about, and to share, personal experiences of professional journeys and challenges.

The line-up of inspirational speakers and panels can be found here.

Whether you're the ‘Next Generation', an ‘Inspirational Leader', or an ‘Innovator of Tech' this event will offer inspiration on not only how to improve yourself, but how to help others too. Discover more here

BBC Design + Engineering is one of the event's sponsors.

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