Bridging the Gap: How Path Forward is Helping Caregivers Find Their Way Into New Careers

In recent years, there’s been a push toward more diversity and inclusion efforts in the workplace in the hopes of creating greater opportunities for underrepresented groups and individuals. 

Among those groups are caregivers who stepped away from work to care for a loved one for a period of time. As a result, these individuals have gaps on their resumes, which can often stand in the way when they attempt to reenter the workforce. 

Path Forward is working to destigmatize taking time away from work for caregiving by providing these individuals with the materials, resources, and help they need to get back to work. Path Forward partners with 80 companies, including Amazon and Facebook, who participate in return-to-work programs that help people land jobs — and that number is continuing to grow. 

It’s all about empowerment 

Abigail Kelly and Melyssa Muro began working for Path Forward because they loved its mission: to empower people to return to paid work, and to encourage recruiters and hiring managers to confront their biases and change the way they think about talent. 

Anyone in the workforce development, career coaching, or recruitment space understands that someone with a gap on their resume is going to have a more challenging time getting a job,” said Abigail. “It’s almost as if we’ve all just collectively resigned ourselves to this fact, and even actively perpetuate it — without ever really challenging it or asking why.”

In order to remove these roadblocks, Path Forward offers return-to-work programs that support workforce reentry through every step of the journey. They provide people with engaging content to prepare and inspire them to return to work, and hold events to connect them with hiring partners and program alumni. Path Forward also offers transition support for returners who get hired into these programs, commonly referred to as “returnships.” 

Returnships are the most common form of return-to-work programs today. They’re paid, temporary job opportunities geared toward professionals returning to the workforce. These programs place the same emphasis on learning and development as internships, but are exclusively for people with a minimum of five years of professional experience. 

Individuals who have taken a career break of two or more years qualify for these returnships, and the programs themselves last anywhere between 12 and 24 weeks, with opportunities for full-time employment once the program is over. In fact, 80% of Path Forward’s program graduates stay with their company after the returnship ends.

More opportunities for everyone 

Caregiving includes child care, elder care, and self care, and caregivers encompass a wide range of demographics. But, there is one group that’s more commonly affected than others. 

“This is overwhelmingly impacting women compared to men. Our unofficial motto is ‘the women aren’t broken, the system is,’ and we truly believe that,” said Abigail.

While women are disproportionately more strongly impacted by these situations than other groups, the individuals who get overlooked because of resume gaps come from incredibly diverse backgrounds. The variety of industries these programs can help returners get into is just as diverse. 

“Many individuals who have left their careers find it difficult to get considered for full-time positions, and appreciate the additional support this program provides from both the employer company and through Path Forward,” said Melyssa. “While we have roles in nearly every field, there is a wealth of opportunities in technology, including software [development], product management, technical program management, data science, and more.”

These programs aren’t necessarily designed for people who are looking to make their way into a new field entirely, but people have used them as an opportunity to pivot their careers, especially to careers in tech. 

Abigail and Melyssa explained there are different degrees of career changes. For example, someone making the switch from one technical role to another might have an easier time leveraging a returnship to make the switch because they already have some industry experience. 

“On the flip side, someone looking to completely change their career from something non-technical to technical may find it more challenging, but not impossible, to use the returnship to facilitate the change,” said Abigail. Path Forward also has a webinar on this topic for anyone interested in learning more. 

In an industry like technology, change happens quickly and constantly, and it’s easy to feel intimidated by it. It can feel like regardless of the amount of education you have, you may never catch up. If that describes your current mindset, Path Forward has some advice.

“It’s important to recognize that previous success can indicate future success,” said Abigail. “You have learned new things and applied them throughout your previous career. You can do it again.”

Looking toward the future of work

COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on the workforce, disproportionately affecting women more than men. Abigail and Melyssa are prepared to help even more people once the pandemic slows down. 

“We’re proud of the work we have done and the incredible employers we’ve partnered with, but we can’t take a foot off the [gas] pedal. After the devastating impact COVID-19 has had on women’s careers, we know the availability of on-ramps back into employment is going to be vital, not just now, but in the future,” Abigail said.

Path Forward and organizations like it are paving the way for a more inclusive and diverse workforce that increases opportunities for everyone. It’s a huge task to take on, but Path Forward will see it through. 

If you’re not sure if a return-to-work program is right for you, sign up for Path Forward’s free newsletter to gain access to job announcements, free monthly webinars, and information about free events with employers. You can also find available work opportunities here and explore their previous events here

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