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The UK is facing a severe shortage of STEM professionals, which has the capacity to seriously affect the productivity and prospects of the country. Returners; those who have taken an extended career break (or change) and now wish to return, offer an untapped pool of talent. To raise awareness of the challenges that returners face and what they offer, the Royal Society of Biology are celebrating the first Returners to Bioscience Week 9-13th November.

To highlight success stories and inspire others the RSB has interviewed several returners in variety of fields, from forestry to virology. Breaks may be taken for caring responsibilities, illness, bereavement, unemployment, or a desire to change career paths, but there can be significant barriers encountered when returning to a career in science. Returners may have lost professional contacts; not be up to date with their skills; or lack confidence, good careers advice or role models.

The RSB recognise that more needs to be done to increase opportunities for returners and have established the Returners to Bioscience Working Group to examine the experiences of those who face difficulties in returning to a career in the biosciences. The group includes representatives from funders, employers, learned societies and a number of experienced returners themselves, and aims to provide resources and mechanisms to support scientists before, during and after a career break.

As part of the ongoing programmes, the group has collated information and resources for returners to assist those thinking of taking a break as well as those hoping to return to the biosciences; including academics, teachers, technicians and industrial scientists.

Dr Pat Goodwin FRSB, chair of the Returners to Bioscience Group said: “Getting a job and going back to work after a career break is not easy and we hope that the RSB Returners Resources will be helpful to those preparing for a career break or planning their return to work. The resources will be a living document and we welcome feedback and input, particularly from anyone with the experience of a career break, of returning to work, or being an employer.”