The Intellectual Property Office (IPO) and STEM Returners have joined forces for the second time to support STEM professionals return to work after a career break.

The IPO, the government organisation responsible for intellectual property rights, will run a new workplace returners programme at its Newport, South Wales, offices, where roles will include Service Designer and Junior Business Analyst. The placement will be on a hybrid-working basis.

The initial 12-week placement opportunity is open to anyone with a background in science, technology, engineering or mathematics who has had a career break. It will also include additional support and advice, career coaching, and mentoring, to help candidates be ready and confident to return to work. At the end of the programme, candidates will have the opportunity to apply for further opportunities within the IPO.

The programme follows the success of the first programme in 2020 in which Sarah O’Neill became an Associate Patent Examiner with the IPO after completing an initial 12-week placement.

Sarah applied for the programme after a five-year career break to care for her two children and returning to the UK. Sarah’s youngest child was three years old and starting nursery, so the time was right for her to look for a new role.

However, after living in Australia for nearly 15 years and with a background in engineering going back to 2002, Sarah felt a little apprehensive about applying for roles in the UK as all her experience was from abroad.

She said: “It was reassuring to know I was not alone, and others had returned to work after a career break.

“The IPO are so flexible; it has been amazing. I can work part time around the family, I have targets, but they are achievable. I’m really enjoying my time here.”

Annual research from STEM Returners (The STEM Returners Index) shows some of the challenges people face when trying to return to work, with recruitment bias a main barrier to entry.

Natalie Desty, director of STEM Returners, said: “Professionals like Sarah, have valuable experience and knowledge that will benefit any employer. Yet, a gap on their CV, of any length, means they face an uphill battle when trying to return after time away from the industry.

“We are very proud to continue working with the IPO to provide more opportunities for highly skilled people to return to STEM. Only by partnering with industry leaders like the IPO, will we make vital changes in recruitment practices, to help those who are finding it challenging to return to the sector and improve diversity and inclusion.”

Penny Phillpotts, IPO Director of People and Place, says of the programme: “We welcome the STEM Returners programme as a really practical way of supporting people with STEM skills through their first step back into employment after a career break. This scheme will enable us to give returners of all genders the chance to restart their STEM career and help us to recruit some great talent for the future.”

The programme is open to all STEM returners across the UK who have had any length of career break.

For more information or to apply to the scheme, please visit