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How a returnship placement helped a civil engineer reignite her career

22 November 2018
How a returnship placement helped a civil engineer reignite her career
Marta Placencia

In August 2014, I decided to make one of my dreams a reality: taking a career break to travel around the world. I travelled for 18 months around 29 countries in Africa, South and Central America and Asia.

Overall it was an amazing experience which taught me new perspectives and an understanding of different cultures and ways of living.

Among the challenges I accomplished were collaborating on two volunteering projects in India and Bolivia, climbing a 5,920-metre volcano in Bolivia, riding a motorbike through India and Mongolia, negotiating the process of buying a car in Panama and selling it back in Guatemala (after driving it through Central America), travelling through East Africa (from Ethiopia to Cape Town) using public transport, as well as writing a travel blog.

In April 2016, I moved to London and my daughter was born in August that year. Since then, until joining the Returnship Programme at Morgan Sindall, I was taking care of her on a full-time basis, which was a very rewarding experience.

The challenges in returning to work

In October 2017 I decided it was the right time to go back to work, so I started looking into new opportunities.

I had experience in working in the construction and infrastructure sector having worked for a tier one contractor in Ireland as an estimator, preparing tenders from £1 million to £35 million. I also worked in Spain for four years for a leading international main contractor as part of a major high-speed rail project.

I knew I wanted to return to the sector, but when I started looking and sending my CV to companies and recruitment agencies, I came up against two barriers – the first, that my work experience in the sector was outside of the UK. Secondly, that I had been out of the workplace for three and a half years.

During this time, I had two interviews, but one was cancelled at the last minute without any reason. The other I was questioned about my career break at my second interview, and I didn’t hear back from the employer when I asked for feedback

The returnship opportunity

After these experiences, I saw an article in trade press and on the Institution of Chartered Civil Engineers’ website about the programme at Morgan Sindall Construction & Infrastructure, and decided to apply.

The recruitment process was very positive. The process and key dates were made clear upon application so I could organise my time in advance.

I also liked the atmosphere at the assessment day and the way in which it was conducted. The way the company made us feel comfortable made me feel that it was a well organised programme.

Like in any new job, you feel you want to be the best of yourself as a professional, but also the best as a wife and mum. You feel you don’t have time for it all, but you learn how to handle everything and enjoy the most from each role.

The Returnship Programme was a phased return to employment over three months, from three to five days per week. It was really helpful to do this, and find that balance. The company also offered all successful applicants practical family-friendly help and support.

I also had the support from a senior colleague in the first two months, who helped me get up-to-date with the UK market. He was a very good guide and mentor.

Positive impact

I feel very lucky and proud to have been given the opportunity to join the programme.

I was offered a permanent position after the placement and I now work four days a week, which I think is a good commitment with the company and for career progression; and I can enjoy one day with my daughter.

I would advise everyone to apply and give themselves the opportunity of going back to work and having this great experience of being part of a company where you're not just a number.

Compared to my home country [Spain], I think construction and engineering in the UK is much more flexible, and Morgan Sindall Construction & Infrastructure is making a real difference in our industry, giving support to those who want to pursue a good work-life balance.

Morgan Sindall returnship opportunities now open

Morgan Sindall Construction & Infrastructure has recently opened its second Returnships programme for applications. The initial scheme, which was successfully launched in October 2017, saw over 90 applicants with a range of skills and experience apply to return to employment after a voluntary career break of 18 months or more.

Applicants may have left the industry to run their own business, raise children, or care for a relative. They may have had an illness themselves which stopped them from working, but are now well enough to return to work.

The programme is similar to an internship – an initial three-month paid placement is offered, with a view to securing a permanent position.

The placement will serve as a staged return, offering the opportunity for individuals to re-engage with working life, initially on a part to full-time basis, all the time developing and refreshing skills and competencies required to return to work.

For more information about the Returnships programme, please visit the ICE returnship section of the website for further details of the vacancies available, or contact Laura Bradley, Head of Communications at Morgan Sindall Construction & Infrastructure on 01788 534638 or [email protected].

  • Marta Placencia, Marta Placencia