5 return to work programs welcoming you back to work in 2023

February 6, 2023
return to work programs for 2023

Returning to work after an extended career break is just like riding a bike. 

Except the bike is on fire. 

You are on fire. 

And everything is on fire.

bike on fire

It’s a funny meme we’ve seen used in varied forms all over the internet. But sadly, for many people, it can be one of those ‘it’s funny, because it’s true’ scenarios. 

We know that getting back into the workforce after some time away can be a bit daunting. But the good news is, if returning to work after an extended career break is on your mind for this year, there are some great programs out there that are specifically designed to help put out some of those flames.  

Our Endorsed Employers have shared with us five amazing programs packed with resources and support. Whether you took a break to care for your kids or aging parents, to travel or pursue a hobby, or because of financial reasons, these programs have got you covered. 

Cisco | Coles Group | Softcat | Zinfra/Jemena | Cummins

Ciscocisco logo

I.T., digital & online media services | 1,001-5,000 employees

What the company does

Cisco is the worldwide technology leader that has been making the Internet work since 1984. Their people, products, and partners help society securely connect and seize tomorrow’s digital opportunities today. Cisco is at the heart of Australia’s digitization with a strategic Country Impact Plan that aims to deliver three key pillars: innovation economy, human capital, and healthy communities.

Programs offered

They recently launched Cisco Rejoin, a tailored pathway designed to support professionals who have been away from paid employment for at least a year and are looking to re-enter the workforce directly into a permanent role, in the Cisco Customer Experience team. 

Cisco Rejoin provides a structured pathway for qualified professionals to be placed into both open and future roles in the Cisco Customer Experience organization. It is just one of a number of initiatives targeted at attracting and retaining a more gender diverse workforce. 

As part of the program, they invite experienced professionals, eligible to work in Australia, New Zealand or India, who have 5+ years of relevant experience and have had a career break of at least 12 months to express their interest.

Returners meeting the eligibility criteria will have access to pre-hire support to assist in preparing to re-enter the workforce, a tailored onboarding experience, as well as specialized coaching and mentoring during the first six months in the role.

In addition, Cisco has invested in training for internal hiring managers and built a tailored process to fuel a talent pipeline for future open roles in Cisco for qualified candidates.

While the Cisco Re-join program is only very recently launched, they have seen strong interest from professionals who are on a career break and looking to resume their careers at Cisco

Cisco Customer Experience provides a number of exciting career opportunities from technical delivery roles, where applicants can apply their technology background to drive high-impact, customer-facing initiatives, to customer success roles, focused on helping customers to adopt and get value from their technology investment.

Hear from their people

paula at cisco

“We are extremely excited to launch this program. We know that after a career break, many women do not return to the IT sector or are underemployed upon returning.  In offering this program we deliver a customized re-entry pathway to connect, support and employ new talent and we can’t wait to meet the high calibre of applicants that may otherwise not apply.”

– Paula Gacesa (she/her), Senior Program Manager, APJC CX Partner Strategy

Coles Groupcoles logo

Retail & fashion | 10,001+ employees

What the company does

Coles is a leading Australian retailer, with over 2,500 retail outlets nationally.

Coles makes life easier for Australians by delivering quality, value, and service. They process more than 20 million customer transactions each week, providing their customers with products from thousands of farmers and suppliers. 

Programs offered

In 2021 Coles launched its first relauncher program, a return-to-tech careers program connecting women who are technology professionals with the career they love, after a period of parental leave care giving, entrepreneurship or further study. 

Relauncher is designed for mid- to senior-tier professionals with relevant experience and/or qualifications in technology, digital transformation and Information Technology systems.

The six-month program provides mentorship, on-the-job training, and coaching tailored to a number of exciting roles in the Technology and Digital teams. Participants are a part of a close-knit cohort, enjoy flexible hours, and get the choice to work from home or in their Melbourne, Sydney or Brisbane offices. 

Coles upskills participants across all relevant technology, software and practise developments, so they have the confidence and opportunities to take an exciting next step in their career. Through this program, Coles aims to increase the level of women representated in leadership roles in their Technology and eCommerce teams, and over time, achieve substantive equality for women in these leadership roles at Coles.

Hear from their people

donna at coles

“The Relauncher program gives you the right support, the right people, and the network from the outset to ensure that coming back to work is a successful transition.”

– Donna Jane (she/her), Acting Digital Manager, Cloud Engineering

Evelien at coles

“I can definitely recommend the Relauncher program to others. The best thing about the program is the fact that I can work at my professional level and still do it part-time to combine it with motherhood, with school drop-offs and pick-ups, and actually achieve so much for Coles. It’s a game changer.”

– Evelien (she/her), Senior Business Analyst

tracey at coles

“Relauncher has been really instrumental in helping me relight my passion and my focus for what my life can be going forward. I’ve created a far greater view of myself as an individual and what my future can be. The Relauncher program with the way it’s structured and Coles being such a flexible workplace has been really important to help me create that view of myself.”

– Tracy (she/her), Senior Business Analyst


Softcatsoftcat logo

I.T., digital & online media services | 1,001-5,000 employees

What the company does

Softcat is one of the UK’s most successful technology solutions businesses. There’s a uniqueness to Softcat – what they do, how they do it, and why they do it. That’s because they help customers to use technology to succeed, by putting their employees first. They give everyone the chance to step up and show how much they can achieve. 

What’s more, they’ve got big plans for the future in which you can play an important part.

Programs offered

Softcat’s Tech Starter Program launched in 2021 with the farsighted aim of creating opportunities for women career returners as part of their diversity and inclusion aspirations to build a representative workforce. 

They have an eye on developing future women leaders in senior technical roles here. They’ve hired eighteen incredible women so far across three cohorts, into different technical functions within Services and IT, with the most recent cohort being the largest intake, signaling the growth of the program as well as the appetite across more divisions in Softcat to be part of this incredible journey. 

The aim is to retrain these career returners, who typically come from non-technical backgrounds and are open to retraining in a career in tech. The program actively welcomes applications from a broad palette, and they’ve found that this demographic is replete with wide-ranging life stories that add immeasurably to the rich tapestry of perspectives and opinions that make Softcat such a cosmopolitan and inclusive environment.

Hear from their people

“The Tech Starter Program has been a great opportunity. Since joining the May 2022 Cohort I’ve received lots of support from Softcat’s Learning and Development team, the managers across Softcat, my mentors, and fellow Tech Starters. The training consisted of a 12-week Bootcamp by an external provider and the skills gained have been invaluable, I’m looking forward to applying them in practice.”

 – Ravinder Atwal

Photo of Melissa McDonnell, employee at Softcat

“This unbelievably supportive and inclusive program has given me the opportunity to be re-energized, positive, and focused on my next career and chapter. Following a career break of 14 years, I did not believe I was of value to the working world until I came across Softcat. They offered me a retraining program; in an industry I had no previous experience. My thirst and energy for learning a new career are immeasurable and Softcat’s inclusive and supportive culture has allowed me to demonstrate this. I am loving my new career and working at this amazing company”

– Melissa McDonnell

 “I would like to say that the program is a wonderful opportunity not only for women from a non-technical background; it is equally beneficial for someone like myself, with a technical background, however with a long career break. I am truly thankful to Softcat for giving me the chance to retrain myself and this has been a huge boost to my self-confidence.”

– Rathna Rao

Photo of Pamela Read in front of a Softcat logo

“After taking a two-year career break, I was made to feel that I would no longer be relevant to get back into the business world. Softcat has helped me to gain confidence and realize that this is not actually the case. I have met some fantastic people and have made some great friends along the way. Softcat has given me a wonderful opportunity to retrain into a career that I never thought would be possible.”

– Pamela Read

“After a long career gap to take care of my family, I finally decided to follow my love for IT. After a bit of research, I found this fantastic Tech starter program at Softcat offering the fascinating role of Technical Administrator. It was evident that the Softcat Tech Starter program has not only vast technological support but also the right work environment.

I have already had a lot of opportunities and freedom to learn the latest technologies in an easy fun-filled environment. I already see my promising future with Softcat.” 

– Megha Desai


Zinfra/Jemenajemena / zinfra logo

Mining, resources & energy | 1,001-5,000 employees

What the company does

Jemena owns and operates a diverse portfolio of energy transportation and distribution assets across Australia. With more than $11.5 billion worth of major utility infrastructure, they supply millions of households and businesses with essential services every day.

Meanwhile, Zinfra deliver a comprehensive range of engineering, project management, construction, operations, and maintenance services. Their purpose is to be the leading and trusted delivery partner, making a positive contribution to Australia’s energy infrastructure.

Programs offered

Their Supporting Families program is designed to strengthen family-friendly workplace practices and recognize the ever-changing challenges of family demands.

Together with their gender-neutral parental leave policies and tools, the program brings together supportive practices and useful resources for team members with family responsibilities. This includes:

  • ‘Keeping In Touch Days’ while on Parental Leave
  • Returning to work support
  • Flexible work options
  • Domestic and family violence support
  • Tools for caring for others, emergency caring and wellness, and support for working families.
Hear from their people

lisa at zinfra

The Group’s commitment to flexibility and inclusion has allowed Lisa Crawford to continue to develop and progress her career whilst growing her family. She’s twice been promoted on occasions coinciding with the birth of her two children, the first in 2018 and more recently upon appointment to the role of General Manager Health and Safety whilst on parental leave. 

Lisa has returned on a permanent part-time basis, working four days a week which allows her to balance both her career aspirations and a growing family. 

“It has been wonderful to return to work following the birth of my son on a part-time basis. It has allowed me to spend quality time with my children and pursue my career. I feel very supported by my direct manager and the business and the broader business and am proud to be one of the first women in a General Manager position taking advantage of our flexible working arrangements.”

– Lisa Crawford, General Manager, Health and Safety at Jemena


Cumminscummins logo

Manufacturing & operations | 1,001-5,000 employees

What the company does

Cummins is a global technology leader committed to a culture of powering your potential. They are dedicated to hiring the best and brightest to grow their talented teams around the globe. Cummins is a place big enough to coach and develop a global workforce and create the world’s leading clean engine technology. They’re also small enough for you to find your fit and personal passion with a team of dependable, innovative thinkers who are developing their careers within a diverse, inclusive, empowering environment.

Programs offered

At Cummins, inclusion and diversity are some of their core values. They understand that returning to work after a long time is never easy, and they want to help make the transition back into work smooth. 

For their full-time staff, they offer flexible working arrangements, where they are happy to listen to the requirements of their employees and see how they can best accommodate as many of their preferences as possible. 

Some examples of flexible working arrangements are: 

  • They have people that are working certain days of the week so that they can spend more time with their families, their young ones and really take some time for themselves 
  • They have people working on flexible hours, so that they can pick up and drop their children off at school 
  • They have people working from different locations so that they can be there for the people they care for 

Overall, Cummins wants to help as you can see by the various forms of flexible working arrangements. Each story is different, so sharing your story will help Cummins find an arrangement that works best for you. The above are just a few examples of their flexible working arrangements to help an employee’s return to work be smoother.

Discover more about these Endorsed Employers

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About the Author

Jacynta Clayton’s career started in recruitment advertising and employer branding, working with global clients to create and deploy strategic and creative content. Now she combines her industry experience with the knowledge from her psychology and professional writing degrees to write unique and resounding stories. As a WORK180 storyteller she relishes the opportunity to elevate the voices and experiences of so many amazing people, while also empowering and educating audiences on how to choose a workplace where they can thrive.

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