Leveraging the Untapped Potential of Women and Men
This is the first programme in Switzerland to assist companies in creating effective returnship programmes: temporary paid positions aimed at bringing women and men - who have taken significant breaks, e.g., to raise children or care for elderly relatives – back into employment. With this project the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts (LUASA) shows its clear commitment to help increase gender equality in Switzerland.
Only a handful of companies in Switzerland have formal re-entry programmes as part of their diversity initiatives. Our goal is to raise awareness about how effective these schemes are at attracting skilled more experienced employees so that businesses can benefit from a stronger pipeline of employees and more diverse teams. The first Stakeholder Workshop on Returnship Programmes will be held in May 2019 at the LUASA.
There is a massive pool of highly skilled people who want to return to work
Many of the men and women who decide to take career breaks have a wealth of valuable experience and creativity but find the route back into meaningful employment difficult, due to diminished confidence and a gap on their CVs. This often leads to would-be returners turning their back on corporate life, taking jobs below their skills set, developing their own business ventures, or focusing on voluntary activities. Whilst these paths are right for some, this ‘brain drain’ from Swiss businesses is depriving companies of the value of thousands of women and men.
In concrete terms, according to the publication by the Federal Statistical Office "Mothers on the Job Market" (FSO, 2016), 55% of the professionally inactive mothers, i.e. around 84,000 mothers, are ready to go back to work on an interesting job. Around 25,000 women are on call immediately, i.e. within 2 weeks, and another 24,000 women are available within 3 months. 84,000 mothers represent 3.7% of the 2.26 million female labor force in Switzerland. There is thus a potential of almost 4% of working women in Switzerland.
Skill sets change, but aptitude remains the same
More often than not firms view people who have had two years or more out of work as a risk, instead of seeing them as individuals who bring a fresh perspective, reflect more diverse clients and customers, and have invaluable assets. While some or their skills may need to be upgraded, this can be done through a supportive programme alongside the work opportunity to ease their way back into the work environment.
In addition, demographic changes and lack of specialists call for action to bring back to the work environment these experienced and qualified professionals. The business and economic arguments for getting more women and men back into the labour market can’t be ignored and with this programme the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts seeks to support the ability of firms to leverage the enormous pool of talent inherent in this target group.
A LUASA Project Team has been collaborating with companies abroad to share best practice and is currently assisting three companies in Zug and Lucerne to build their own returnship programme. In addition, they will be forging partnerships with key organisations involved in providing coaching, training and skills-upgrading services to return-to-work women and men.