Faced with a shortage of skilled tech talent, many organizations are looking to bring back mid-career professionals (the vast majority of them women) who left the workforce for lengthy periods of time to care for children or elderly relatives and are looking to return. Several organizations, including iRelaunch and the nonprofit Path Forward, a project by the data provider Return Path, have been set up specifically to facilitate these re-entries, using internships, mentorships, and other methods to help returnees update their skills and re-acclimate to office life. Last week, Path Forward announced the launch of its return-to-work program in California, in which six Silicon Valley employers are participating:
Beginning in October, GoDaddy, Zendesk, Demandbase, Coursera, CloudFlare and Instacart will offer multiple jobs, in the form of 18-week paid internships, to give people who wish to return to the workplace an on-ramp back into their careers. The program is open to mid-career professionals with a minimum of five years of work experience who have taken at least two years out of the workforce to take care of their kids, their parents or other loved ones. Jobs span a wide variety of functions, including marketing, engineering and sales. Applications are now being accepted directly by each company and a complete list of opportunities can be found at pathforward.org.
Path Forward’s director tells the Washington Post’s Jena McGregor that she plans to expand the program to other parts of the country in the coming months:
While the program is open to men who have spent at least two years out of the workplace as a caregiver, it is expected to be filled largely by women. It is aimed at helping interns confront the stigma they face about time away. Also tech companies get a chance to improve their reputation as places that too many women leave. “If you’re wanting more women at the senior level, this is a way to jump-start that,” said Tami Forman, the executive director of Path Forward. Forman said there’s been enough interest from other companies that she plans to start two to three more groups of these untraditional interns (who, yes, are paid) in several cities early next year, each with six to 10 tech companies.
While the “returnship” model has generated a lot of enthusiasm, McGregor points out that they don’t necessarily work for every industry, and shouldn’t be taken as a cure-all for the challenge of bringing mid-career women back to work: