Earlier this year Skanska launched its Return to Work programme. Israil Bryan explains how it works, with help from two new employees.
As an industry, we have a huge challenge to recruit, retain and develop the talented people needed to deliver the major infrastructure projects planned over the coming years.
To help tackle this skills shortage, Skanska is exploring new ways to attract people to the industry, including through a new programme targeted at those returning from a career break.
It’s no secret there’s a skills shortage in the majority of vocations across the construction industry and this is reinforcing the need to think differently about how we recruit.
For some time we have been proactively recruiting from other industries and from a diversity of backgrounds, including ex-military, ex-offenders and people from different social backgrounds.
More recently, we’ve started to explore other ways to attract new talent and in June launched our Return to Work programme.
The initiative is targeted at professional men and women who have taken career breaks of two years or more. This could have been for all sorts of reasons, such as to focus on their family, to go travelling or overcoming a long-term illness.
Tiffany Grimwade sub agent Wessex Capacity Alliance Skanska
Case study: Tiffany Grimwade, sub-agent, Wessex Capacity Alliance
Before joining Skanska through the Return to Work programme, I’d been on a six-year career break devoting my time to bringing up my children in the first stage of their lives. I was fortunate to be in a position to take a break but I always knew I would want to pick up my career again later.
I’m a structural engineer by trade and began my career in my home country of Australia, and have also worked in China. My background is in the commercial sector, working on the design of high-rise buildings, including hotel and casino projects.
I’ve been in the UK for two-and-a-half years and recently made the decision to get back into engineering. When I started to look for a new role, it became apparent that it was going to be a challenge. This came as a real surprise to me; having a gap on my CV made recruiters nervous.
Skanska appealed to me because it looked like the kind of place that valued broad experience and where I could apply my skills. I was also attracted to its Scandinavian heritage, which gave credibility to the notions of flexibility and diversity.
I joined the company in September as a sub-agent and began working on the Wessex Capacity Alliance. Since then I’ve received a personalised introduction to the business and have access to coaching, which is really helping me transition back to work. Although it’s early days, I’m enjoying being a part of something new and it’s made me feel excited about the future.
The industry should do more to promote this type of programme. They are missing out on some great people with great skills who may not have followed a traditional career path – people that want to get back to work and would relish the opportunity these programmes provide.
Like an internship, the placement runs for 12 weeks with the aim of joining on a permanent basis. As part of the arrangement we offer tailored support and coaching to help with the transition back to work. We also consider any flexible needs to cater for different circumstances – recognising this is sometimes a barrier for those wanting to get back to work.
100 applicants in five weeks
Incredibly, when we launched the programme we had more than 100 applications in just five weeks. Around 80 per cent of these were from women, with the majority keen to pick up their career in a technical field.
In September, we took on seven placements in a mixture of technical and support functions either based on our projects or at our head office. For some, it’s their first time working in the UK, and for others it’s their first time working in the construction industry.
The programme is enabling us to reach out to a wider pool of talent that we had previously been missing out on. We were inundated with applications and I think this shows there is a huge appetite among those wanting to get back to work after having time out.
If the industry wants to capitalise on this we need to make it easier for people to get back to work. It’s certainly an opportunity that Skanska is seizing.
Maria Kim communications business partner Skanska
Case study: Maria Kim, communications business partner
Prior to taking a break to raise my children, I was a senior marketing communications executive, heading Virgin Media’s sports and film sponsorship division. Before that, I worked with a number of other brands at various marketing agencies in Europe and North America.
Although my background is not what you would typically expect at a construction company, I saw Skanska as an interesting opportunity to apply myself in a completely different environment.
I was introduced to the concept of returnships by attending a local workshop run by beyondtheschoolrun.com. One speaker in particular shared her experience from a similar programme and spoke of the increasing trend in companies seeking more senior recruits with experience in navigating large and complex global organisations.
Inspired and with my LinkedIn page updated, I set out to research what opportunities were available and soon got in contact with Israil Bryan. It was her dedication to assessing how someone with my background could add value to Skanska that ultimately encouraged me to apply.
My role works for me because they understood my requirements and worked with me to find the right environment that would suit all parties involved. The agile way of working allows me to have both family and work in my life, which keeps me balanced.
Joining the programme has been a very personal and customised journey for me.
Israil Bryan is diversity and social programme manager at Skanska