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Returnships could help Americans forced out of workforce during pandemic

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Posted at 1:47 PM, Jun 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-09 16:47:42-04

The pandemic forced millions of women and others out of the workforce. Many of them still haven't returned. A returnship is something that may help.

The number of these programs available and interest from companies has been growing recently. It's an opportunity for people who have taken time off for caregiving to restart their careers.

“I think a lot of the decisions made during the pandemic will reverberate and so we're going to see this as an ongoing need for companies to have opportunities that do allow their managers to bring people in who had those longer breaks,” said Tami Forman, the executive director at Path Forward, a nonprofit that helps create more of these returnship opportunities.

Path Forward has launched about a dozen of the programs so far this year and the organization anticipates more will be starting in the fall.

Amazon is one of the latest to make a commitment to returnships. The company says it plans to hire 1,000 people for these 16-week paid work opportunities.

Amazon's jobs are for people who have been unemployed or underemployed for at least a year. Other programs require you to have been out of work for at least 2 years.

“The returnship does offer an opportunity to think of it as like getting back on the bike. Right, like you will quickly realize like, ‘oh, I remember all of this and oh, this is new, but I’m going to learn that in two seconds because it's really just not all that complicated right,’ so I think it offers some of that. I think of it more as skill refreshing,” said Forman.

Forman says returnships aren't for people looking to switch careers. Also, if you haven't been out of work for five years or more, she recommends applying both for full-time jobs and returnships.

One of her biggest pieces of advice right now is remembering that getting back to work is hard for everyone and you have to try not to take it personally when you're not finding traction.

“You are absolutely positively going to provide value to a company, like you have so much to offer, and when you remember that and remember that we need you, we need you to be doing all the things that you can do and to kind of try to build your confidence in whatever ways,” said Forman.

Returnships typically last around 16 weeks. Pay will be more than a college intern typically makes. Forman says they see about 80% of the people in programs they work on transition to full-time roles.

You can find a list of current opportunities at PathFoward.org.