Dipanwita Banerjee works in a lab.

ARUP offers returnships for people from a variety of professional backgrounds who have taken a break from their careers for at least one year. Dipanwita Banerjee, MS, associate scientist, benefited from one such program before joining ARUP.

March 8, 2024

Many people could tell you that an internship is a short-term program geared toward students or early careerists. Internships provide support to those who are ready to get started on their desired career path. 

But what about skilled professionals who have taken a break from their careers to care for sick family members, serve in the military, or start a family? Workplaces often turn down applications from candidates with long employment gaps, and internships are not an option due to the amount of previous experience these professionals have. 

To address this issue, ARUP is launching a new “returnship” program that aims to help professionals reenter the workforce with short-term, paid opportunities. Like an internship, a returnship offers access to mentors, networking opportunities, and skills development. It also offers returning professionals an opportunity to reacclimate to a work environment.

Tracy George, MD, ARUP’s chief scientific officer, president of the Innovation Business Unit, and medical director of Hematopathology, created ARUP’s returnship program with guidance from BioHive’s Women in Technology and Science (WITS) committee. WITS has worked with other biotechnology and life science companies in Salt Lake City, Utah to strengthen their returnships and other programs for women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

Although George used WITS’ returnship program as a model, she said that ARUP’s program is unique by expanding opportunities to skilled professionals regardless of gender and offering positions in and outside of STEM.

“There are a lot of ways to be involved in the life sciences or biotechnology, and we want to showcase that. We’re all part of the team, whether you’re a medical writer, a laboratory scientist, in marketing, or a project manager,” George said. “At ARUP, we want to meet returnees halfway. Our programs are customized based on the returnee’s experience.”

After months of planning, George is excited to see the returnship program come to fruition.

ARUP senior Human Resources (HR) business partners Rachel Lovato, MS, and Claire Adam, SPHR, worked with George to bring ARUP’s returnships to life and are now accepting applications.

Lovato said that as a part-time opportunity, returnships help people warm up to working in the industry again. Starting with a returnship “makes it a little less scary,” Lovato said. “Plus, if you left to raise a family, for example, you have other priorities to juggle as you come back. It’s helpful to take it a bit slower than diving into a full-time job.”

The launch of ARUP’s returnship program coincides with a large-scale, post-pandemic return to the workforce. “The pandemic has shown us that a lot of women left the workforce to care for children or elderly parents,” George said. “It’s important to give those that want to get back into the workforce a seamless way to make that happen.”

Adam said that “people are interested in coming back into the workforce, but the working landscape has changed quite a bit during the pandemic. All of the ways that we interact with our colleagues are very different.”

Lovato, Adam, and George all stressed that the returnship is a win-win for returnees and ARUP.

“We believe that this group of people has a lot to offer to ARUP, or any organization,” Adam said. “These candidates are superstars.”

Adam added, “These opportunities are open to everyone who has had a career break, but we predict that the majority of the applicants will be women. Returnships are a great way to honor their professional experience and all the work they've done while they've been away.”

The increasing availability of returnship programs is part of a larger initiative to make Utah a more equitable state for women, Adam said. She pointed to state initiatives with similar goals, including the Utah Women and Leadership Project (UWLP), an organization hosted by Utah State University and supported by Utah’s state government. UWLP conducts research on the status of women in Utah to inform local lawmaking decisions. 

A 2024 UWLP report compiled rankings of women’s equality in the United States and found that Utah often ranked last or near last. These rankings weighed many metrics, including professional factors like the gender pay gap, the number of women in executive positions, and the representation of women in the legislature. Adam said that one of ARUP’s goals in creating their returnship program is to counter professional inequity in Utah.

People reentering the workforce may feel uneasy returning after a long break, but ARUP strives to create a welcoming environment for all returnees. Before starting at ARUP, Dipanwita Banerjee, MS, associate scientist in ARUP’s Research and Development (R&D) Immunology Lab, spent more than a decade away from laboratory work to travel the world and start a family after earning her master’s degree.

Banerjee said that despite worrying she would feel out of place, her anxieties subsided when she joined her team at ARUP and felt fully welcomed. “Over my time here, I’ve never felt like an outsider. ARUP’s culture is about embracing everyone,” she said. “That’s one of the reasons I love this place.” 

Anyone interested in a returnship at ARUP can apply for an open position on our job board or submit an interest form to help HR customize opportunities for selected returnees and match them with an appropriate department. Learn more about the returnship program here.