Boston Fed expanding hiring program for professionals rejoining workforce Boston Fed expanding hiring program for professionals rejoining workforce

Resurgence program offers first ‘returnship’ in Federal Reserve System Resurgence program offers first ‘returnship’ in Federal Reserve System

March 16, 2023

After spending three years as her grandfather’s primary caregiver, Valencia Lockett knew she was ready to return to the workforce. She pursued an open position in her specialty of marketing and project management, made it through the final interview, and thought it had gone very well.

But when she didn’t get the job, she decided to ask her recruiter why.

“She told me that it had nothing to do with my skill set, education, or anything like that,” Lockett said. “She stated it was just that I hadn’t worked, I guess, in so long.”

The recruiter also pointed her to iRelaunch, an organization that’s partnering with the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston and the STEM Reentry Task Force – co-led by the Society of Women Engineers – to offer the Federal Reserve’s first career reentry pilot program. It’s called the “Resurgence program,” and it’s dedicated to hiring candidates seeking to return to the workforce after a career break.

The first position the program pointed Lockett toward was a project manager role in the Boston Fed’s IT department. After an extensive interview process, she got the job. IT Vice President Paul Sheedy said the hiring has been a success for the department.

“Through this program, the Bank’s recognizing that returning professionals are part of our New England community, and they deserve a fair chance to compete for open roles,” Sheedy said.

Economist: Supporting returning employees key amid regional worker shortage

Survey data shows that once people leave the workforce for an extended period, there’s very little chance they will return, said Boston Fed economist Pinghui Wu.

“There’s definitely a need to help bring workers back,” she said. “We know that regardless of their backgrounds, people who leave the workforce face substantial barriers to returning.”

Programs that support people who are seeking to return to the workforce are especially important in New England, where employers are experiencing a shortage of workers across the skill spectrum due to the region’s aging population, Wu said.

Todd Matthews, the Bank’s director of talent acquisition, said it’s common for employers to assume that the best job candidates are already working or that the best employees always make it through layoffs. But that’s not necessarily true, he said.

“For example, many companies were significantly impacted by COVID-19,” Matthews said. “That’s not a person’s fault, and I think employment gaps are a post-pandemic reality we may see across labor markets.”

“Returnships” give workers a chance to prove their capabilities

Carol Fishman Cohen, CEO and co-founder of iRelaunch, said that both men and women take career breaks for a variety of reasons, including child care, elder care, health issues, and military service.

“All of these professionals share a unique characteristic: Their career breaks have nothing to do with work performance. An external factor was the cause,” she said. “And people don't lose their abilities to be high performers simply because they take a career break.”

Like most career re-entry programs, the Bank’s Resurgence program follows a “returnship” model, Cohen said. That means it includes a paid role with a specific start and end date – typically around 16-20 weeks – as well as training, mentorship and career coaching. At the end of that period, employers have the option to hire the returnship participant full-time.

“These programs are successful because they give the employer a chance to evaluate someone based on actual work experience instead of a series of interviews,” Cohen said. “And it’s a two-way street, as the returnship participant also gets the opportunity to test out the role.”

Task force promotes career reentry in tech-heavy fields

Angela Middleton, the Boston Fed’s lead diversity sourcer in Human Resources, said the Bank started the Resurgence program after it saw an increase in open IT jobs in the FedNowSM Service – the Fed’s instant payments system – and other initiatives.

“This was a great opportunity to hire more diverse employees and candidates from a wider variety of sources,” she said.

The Bank is currently hiring a risk analyst for the Main Street Lending Program through the Resurgence program.

Jen Scott, the Society of Women Engineers’ executive vice president of partnerships and events, said that STEM employers are often hesitant to hire someone who’s taken a career break because technology changes so rapidly. That’s why the STEM Reentry Task Force works with employers to create returnship programs for engineering and tech roles, she said.

Many professionals returning to the workforce have earned certificates and advanced degrees to ensure their skills are up to date, Scott said. So far, about 1,000 people have participated in Task Force Employer career reentry programs, and more than 85% of them have been hired full-time.

“The Boston Fed is the first organization of its kind that we’ve worked with, and our hope is that (the program) continues to grow,” Scott said.

Learn more about the Resurgence program on the Boston Fed's "Career Reentry Programs" page.

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