Innovative Training and Career Development Support for Women Returners across Europe
Portia Ltd was financial co-ordinator and technical partner of in the EU Return: Innovative Training and Career Development Support for Women Returners across Europe. The project was funded under the EU Lifelong Learning Programme of the Education and Culture DG, and ran between 2008 – 2010.
The overall aim of the project was to transfer innovative training methodologies developed as part of the Equalitec project in the area of mentoring to other European countries, in order to improve European vocational educational training (VET), and career guidance for women returning to employment/self-employment following a career break.
The innovative component of EU Return has been designing training for facilitators of mentoring circles for women returning to work after a career break. The Mentoring Circles for women returning to ITEC (Information Technology, Electronics and Communications) and science careers were developed and tested as part of the Equalitec project, where they demonstrated strong potential and value.
In EU Return, the 'circle' approach was further developed to include training for the facilitators. Romania, Portugal and Denmark provided the background for the transfer of the mentoring approach, and guidelines were produced for each to promote more professional mentoring of groups of individuals.
Perhaps the most important lesson that came out from EU Return was the importance of national and local political and cultural conditions, which influence in different ways the women's circumstances and the reasons for taking a career break, and the available opportunities for returning. There is no doubt that highly trained women who have taken a career break represent an excellent but highly under-utilised talent pool for employers. The amount of support that they need to make an effective return is not extensive, however, recruitment processes have not been designed to tap into this source of skills.