Seven tech companies are joining a growing effort to get caregivers who’ve left the workplace back into the full-time labor force.
The employers include data analytics company Verisk Analytics; Internet advertising and ad management software provider AppNexus; Medallia, a customer feedback solutions provider; Intacct, a company that provides financial management software; Volta, which operates an electric car charger network; Quantcast, a digital marketing company; and Cloudera, a software company that provides data analytics and management products. They are currently hiring for so-called returnships through a non-profit organization called Path Forward that works with companies to create 16-week positions for mid-career professionals who want to get back to the workplace after taking time off to care for a child, parent, or other loved one.
This is Path Forward’s second official cohort. In August, six other tech companies—GoDaddy, Coursera, Instacart, Zendesk, Demandbase, and Cloudflare—signed up to offer returnships. Four of those companies eventually hired a combined 10 returnees in October who will complete their temporary stints in late February or early March. GoDaddy and Instacart did not end up hiring returnees at that point. Instacart is giving it another go by recruiting again alongside the seven new tech companies. GoDaddy is still considering what roles will work best for returnships, says Tami Forman, Path Forward’s executive director.
Subscribe to The World’s Most Powerful Women, Fortune’s daily must-read for global businesswomen.
Forman said the first cohort of 10 was “smaller than I’d hoped for.” The six companies had originally aimed to hire between 20 and 30 returnees. Forman said one hiccup so far is companies’ lofty expectations for the kinds of skills—especially in engineering—they will find in workers who have been out of the workforce for a few years. They have to get used to “what candidates look like when they’re coming off of significant time away,” she says.
The seven new companies partnering with Path Forward want to fill about 30 positions in fields like engineering, marketing, professional services, technical operations, and sales. They pay Path Forward an administrative fee in exchange for training on how to run their programs and for promotional services. The open returnship positions will be posted on Path Forward’s website, but the companies will collect applications, vet candidates, and pay interns on their own. The returnships are open to professionals—women and men—who have at least five years of experience and have been out of the workforce for caregiving duties for at least two years.
Path Forward launched as a standalone non-profit last year after starting as an internal program of data provider Return Path. In its previous iteration, Path Forward launched return-to-work programs at seven other companies including Return Path, PayPal, and ReadyTalk, which provides conferencing technology. Eighty percent of participants in those programs were offered employment at the company where they interned. Ninety percent eventually found some kind of employment.
By helping companies create returnship programs, Path Forward answers a dire need, particularly among women looking to get back into the workforce. A study published by the Center for Talent Innovation in 2010 found that 31% of highly qualified women voluntarily left their jobs for an average of 2.7 years. Nearly nine out of 10 women who left their jobs said they wanted to resume their careers, and while 73% succeeded in returning to their careers, only 40% found full-time, mainstream work.
A 2014 poll of nonworking adults ages 25 to 54 by the New York Times, CBS News, and the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 61% of women said that family responsibilities were keeping them home; just 37% of nonworking men gave that same answer. Of the women who identified as homemakers and had not searched for a job in the last year, nearly three-quarters said they would consider returning to the workforce if a job allowed for flexible hours or let them work from home.
The United States is not alone in struggling to get caregivers—notably moms—back into full-time jobs after taking time off. When Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced labor market reforms in early December aimed at getting more women into the workforce, he said his government will introduce initiatives to assist mothers in up-skilling as they consider rejoining the workforce. The program will reportedly include tuition grants of up to 70% of course fees for up to 10 years after mothers leave their jobs.
Last year, Laura Sherbin, director of research at the Center for Talent Innovation, told Fortune that for a returnship like the ones Path Forward offers to work, it has to bring individuals back into the workforce in roles that value their experience, not in positions that sideline them to B-list jobs. Otherwise, she says, they’re receiving punishment that “doesn’t fit the crime.”