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Up to 1,500 women preparing to return to the workforce will receive support from new funding worth up to £2million.

The Women Returners Programme has been developed to improve the confidence, networks and work-readiness of women aged 25 and over who have taken a career break of at least six months.

Support offered will be based on an individual’s existing skills, experience and barriers to employment and could include, but is not limited to, mentoring, CV building, IT skills, other learning provision or a work placement.

Funded by Scottish Government, the Programme aims to contribute towards reducing the gender pay gap, improving women’s economic position in the labour market and delivering fair and inclusive economic growth.

“As we look to deliver on our ambitions to build a fairer, greener, more sustainable economy, it is really important that we tackle workplace inequalities for women, including the motherhood penalty and discrimination such as age, ethnicity or disability. This is an important initiative that will benefit women and employers all over the country.”

Employment Minister, Richard Lochhead

Tailored support

Available now (October), the Women Returners Programme is funded until March 2022. It will be delivered by Skills Development Scotland in partnership with a range of organisations such as charities, or those specialising in digital skills or inclusive recruitment, who will offer a tailored support service for eligible participants.

Employment Minister, Richard Lochhead said: “We know there are long standing structural and societal barriers that can prevent women successfully returning to the workforce following a career break, made more difficult by the impacts of the pandemic. The Women’s Returners Programme aims to mitigate some of these barriers and help women to develop the confidence, skills, work experience and networks they may need to ease the transition back to work.

“As we look to deliver on our ambitions to build a fairer, greener, more sustainable economy, it is really important that we tackle workplace inequalities for women, including the motherhood penalty and discrimination such as age, ethnicity or disability. This is an important initiative that will benefit women and employers all over the country.”

Holistic approach

Skills Development Scotland’s Director of National Training Programmes, Katie Hutton, said: “The Women Returners Programme recognises the challenges women face if they want to return to work, which is even greater as a result of the pandemic.

“The initiative takes a holistic approach to support women who have been out of the labour market to get ready for work, from building their confidence to addressing any technical skills needed.

“Skills Development Scotland will be working with a range of organisations who all have the skills and experience to identify and understand the specific needs of each individual.

“As a result, women will benefit from the support and employers will be able to access more skilled individuals.”

Those eligible to benefit from the Programme may have been out of work or experienced a career break – through circumstances such as childcare, health or caring commitments. The programme will support their journey back into the labour market.

“The programme helped me to develop a sense of self-assurance and led to me securing a flexible role that suits my family. I really do not think I would have applied for the position before starting the programme.”

Amy Bodel

The programme is being launched following an initial pilot and a smaller scheme managed by the Scottish Government.

Previously, the service has been delivered by a range of learning providers including those supporting the third sector in areas such as veterans and equalities.

Returning from career break

Amy Bodel sought help from Edinburgh based organisation, Challenges Catalyst, through its Making Work Work – for Women Returners programme, having been a stay-at-home mum since the end of her second maternity leave in 2018.

Amy, from West Lothian, took a longer break after the birth of her second child and was planning to return to work in August 2022, once both children were in primary school. However, her confidence had taken a knock and she felt the need to refresh her skills before applying for roles.

The 33-year-old mum of two thought she would most benefit from the mentoring support offered by the organisation and, with the help of her mentor, applied for roles earlier than planned.

Amy was successful and now works in the third sector as an International Learning Coordinator at Social Enterprise Academy International.

Peer support

Amy, who had a degree with six years' work experience prior to gaining support, said: “The Making Work Work programme completely shifts your attitude about returning to work. It's genuinely transformational.

“By the end of the programme, I felt empowered to cherry pick which organisations I wanted to share my skills with whereas, before, I felt that I would be lucky for an employer to choose me.

“The programme helped me to develop a sense of self-assurance and led to me securing a flexible role that suits my family. I really do not think I would have applied for the position before starting the programme.”

Amy also gained valuable friendships on the programme. She said: “The peer support network created on the programme has also been incredible and we continue to encourage one another, now we're moving into new roles and the different set of challenges those bring."

More information and support

More information about the Women Returners Programme and details about each delivery organisation and the support services they offer can be found at 

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