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ICE Community blog

Return-to-work programmes for women

06 January 2020

ICE NW member Antje Budge shares her experience of returning to work through Balfour Beatty's Returners Programme following a nine year break to bring up her two children.

Return-to-work programmes for women
ICE member Antje Budge (centre) being congratulated for her service to ICE Cheshire branch by Past President, Andrew Wyllie (left) and North West Director, Emma Antrobus (right)

Maybe, like me, you’re someone who uses January as a time to reflect on what you’d like to change or achieve in the coming year.

When I started thinking about returning to work, I knew I needed to find a company which had diverse opportunities embedded into its working culture. For me, one of the most important aspects of returning to work was the ability to work flexibly.

A healthy work-life balance

Right now, being able to fit my professional life in with my family life means a lot to me. I feel fulfilled and empowered to be able to use my skills, expertise and experience of an engineer in a leading infrastructure company while at the same time giving my family the attention they deserve. From my past experience, a lot of people would overlook or hesitate to take on a candidate who is not able to fit specific and often traditional working patterns. This unfortunately means that many people, quite often women, can’t apply for certain roles.

Changing attitudes to flexibility within employment

Gradually, attitudes are changing as employers start to recognise that flexibility can be a solution rather than a problem. With initiatives such as return to work programmes, I can see a change happening within the industry. I hope that in 2020 and beyond companies can aspire to offer more flexibility when it comes to employing those from different backgrounds.

Work-life balance

When I came across Balfour Beatty’s Returners Programme I was delighted to see I could get back into work in a way that would suit me professionally and personally. I worked 30 hours per week for 21 weeks, still enabling me to get home and spend quality time with my family.

During the 21 week programme, I was involved with interesting projects, helping me get back into the swing of a technical role and re-igniting my passion for engineering on infrastructure projects. I felt fully supported and was provided with a mentor as well as on-going coaching and advice from other returners.

From this, I had the opportunity to develop new relationships and new skills which really helped me when it came to integrating back into working culture. Balfour Beatty really invests their time and resources in the women on this programme and goes on to select successful candidates to join the business in a permanent role.

During the programme, I met three other candidates, and all four of us received an offer of permanent roles within the company. Some of us had young families, some had been out of work due to ill health, and others had been nursing relatives. But it was great to see we had not been overlooked because of a ‘gap’ in on our CVs.

Shaking up recruitment can bring rewards

Moving into a new decade really feels like an opportunity for change. I believe to have a diverse workforce that reflects the society we operate in, it is essential to open the door to those who would otherwise feel the industry is closed to them. I hope by this time next year you will feel you’ve made steps towards achieving your January ambitions.

  • Antje Budge, Design Coordinator at Balfour Beatty UK Construction Services at Balfour Beatty UK Construction Services