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How a returnship got me back into civil engineering after an 18-year break

14 October 2022

Return-to-work programmes are fast becoming a popular option for anyone looking to step back into their career.

How a returnship got me back into civil engineering after an 18-year break
Return-to-work programmes support returners with mentoring and other forms of support. Image credit: Shutterstock

A healthy work-life balance is key to a happy life, and for some that may mean taking a long career break.

Whether it be to raise children, explore different avenues, get through an illness, or deal with family commitments, the return to work after an extended time off can be a daunting task.

Some may need to find a flexible arrangement, whereas others may be looking to join a work culture embedded with opportunities.

That’s why our industry’s return-to-work programmes are fast becoming a very popular option for those looking to step back into a career that can fit around their current situation.

Morgan Sindall Infrastructure's return-to-work programme

Morgan Sindall Infrastructure first launched its return-to-work programme in 2018, supporting people back into their careers in the sector.

The programme runs for six months. It offers mentoring and training opportunities to those with existing skills to grow in the industry, with the view of securing a permanent position with the company.

Senior engineer Linda Pritchard is one of the many people the programme has helped get back into the industry.

Linda's story

"The returner programme at Morgan Sindall Infrastructure was an opportunity for me to return to my roots of civil and environmental engineering.

I’m an MEng graduate and took an 18-year break following the birth of my first child.

I saw the programme as a chance to retrain, get back into the sector and fulfil my initial goal to become a qualified engineer.

In the time since I left the industry, I’d retrained and taught as a secondary school mathematics teacher.

At the point of application, I was working in the accounts department of a national plant and machinery hirer.

With my two children now almost grown, I felt I needed a new challenge, and the returner programme came at the perfect time.

I didn’t feel there was any other path out there for me, civil engineering is quite specific. I had Googled and looked for apprenticeships and retraining opportunities, but nothing long-term or more than a week or month was available, and even then, it was for very little or no pay with no prospect of ongoing work afterwards.

As a single parent, I wasn’t in a position to give up a full-time job.

A risk that paid off

Morgan Sindall Infrastructure has a great reputation within the industry and as an employer.

So, while it was a risk to give up a steady position, it was also a fantastic opportunity for me to take back my life and continue with the career I’d started so many years ago.

I hoped I would be accepted for my knowledge, my wide range of experience and my ability to apply this to my new role.

But I feared that engineers with more recent experience of the industry would not see me as an equal, that I wouldn’t be able to ‘keep up’ or know all the terminology and would look stupid.

I also feared that I may be treated as the ‘token’ female on the team and not recognised for my true skills and attributes.

What I did during the return-to-work programme

It was exciting working on HS2.

I did a variety of roles, from a site engineer assessing access onto and across land for fencing requirements to securing the land for the project and keeping protestors out of unsafe areas.

I completed various traffic management courses to be able to review traffic management plans and applications, and then went on to take a role in the consents team.

I have been with the company for over four years now and I take great pride when I tell friends I’m working for Morgan Sindall Infrastructure.

It makes me realise how much I’ve missed working in the sector.

Find out more

Morgan Sindall’s programme has positions all over the UK, including Rugby, London, Midlands, North East, Wales, Cumbria and many more.

Over the six months you’ll work in a business area that complements your skills and receive training to improve your confidence and build on your current skillset and knowledge of the industry.

You can find more information about Morgan Sindall Infrastructure’s programme over on the company’s website, or read about some other experiences on the ICE Community Blog.

  • Natalie Conroy, HR coordinator at Morgan Sindall Infrastructure