Best Practices

Returnships, Apprenticeships, & Sabbaticals

February 2018

This offers great examples of returnships, apprenticeships & sabbaticals from top companies.

Programs for Returning Workers

Barclays expanded upon the success of its apprenticeship program (which appointed over 2,000 apprentices) to offer apprenticeships targeted to candidates over age 50 who are returning to work or looking for a new
career. The bank said it considers mature workers from unrelated fields, and that the only experience needed is practical experience. This is not a PR stunt; the bank states it values older workers who have life experience
and can better relate to the financial needs of mature customers. Barclays already has a Digital Eagles offering, a team at Barclays established to help customers with online issues. An extension of this is Barclays’ Silver
Eagles, a team of tech-savvy older workers in place to help mature customers with online banking. The new apprenticeship program builds on this effort to capitalize on the life skills of experienced employees. The bank predicts that bringing in apprentices over 50 years of age will make the institution more accessible, and ensure a better fit with more mature customer.

Goldman Sachs’ Returnship program was specifically designed for those who left the workforce for two or more years and are ready to return. This paid program offers returning workers opportunities in a variety of
divisions. The program launched in the US in 2008, and given its success, was expanded globally. The returnship offers a guided period of exploration, and provides individuals with an opportunity to sharpen their
skills in a work environment that may have changed significantly since their last experience as an employee. It also gives participants the ability to explore a new area of expertise and learn new skills.

In an effort to retain older workers, CVS Caremark’s ‘snowbird’ program transfers several hundred pharmacists and other employees from Northern states each winter to pharmacies in warmer states. The older workers
helps the southern CVS locations keep up with the surge in business during the colder months. The older workers a offered a flexible schedule and help train and mentor newer employees. “A good number of our pharmacy customers are going to be mature customers, and as part of our focus on diversity, we want a work force that reflects our customer base,” said David Casey, CVS’s vice president for work force strategies. As part of its Talent is Ageless program, CVS Caremark partners with community agencies to recruit, hire and train workers ages 50 to 99. Since the program began, the percentage of the workforce age 50+ grew from 6% to

Centrica’s HitReturn program is targeted toward senior-level professionals who are seeking to return to the workforce following an extended career break of two years or more. Launched in partnership with Mars and
Vodafone, it is the first cross-company partnership in the UK. The pilot program offers 12-week, paid returnships, which provide participants the opportunity to work on professional assignments and to receive
expert coaching. Each of the three participating companies also provides a mentor and access to all relevant internal networks. Job opportunities are based in the head offices of the three companies in areas including
marketing, legal, finance operations, technology, and human resources. Participation in the program does not guarantee a permanent job, but landing a permanent job is a strong possibility.

Fidelity’s customers wanted call center representatives with a first-hand understanding of common life decisions, so Fidelity hired retirees to staff its 401(k) call centers and offered flexible work arrangements to
attract them.

As a way to attract mature engineers to its firm, Burns and McDonnell offers 100 percent vesting in its employee stock ownership plan when workers reach age 62, regardless of years of service.

Atlantic Health System allows retirees in the 1000 Hour Club to return to work either on a part-time or per diem basis three months after retirement. A retiree can work up to 999 hours annually and still collect retirement benefits.

Hartford created a reverse mentoring program to help senior leaders learn about social media from younger workers. Junior mentors were required to apply for the program and were screened on qualities required for effective mentoring. Senior leaders committed to structured sessions with their mentors. The program is such a success, it has spawned ideas for reverse mentoring on other topics, such as sustainability and green corporate practices.

Data provider Return Path initially launched program of internships for returning mid-career professionals to increase the representation of women in the company, particularly in technical roles. The initiative was so
successful the company established the program as a standalone nonprofit organization called Path Forward, designed to set up similar programs for other companies. The nonprofit helps corporate HR departments set
up mid-career internships for a flat fee. The internships are to be 20-week, paid positions available to individuals who have been out of the professional workforce for at least two years to care for children, a spouse, or a parent. The goal is that employers will hire interns as full-time workers at the end of the temporary stint. Return Path reports more than 80% of participants across six of the companies were offered continued employment at the conclusion of the program.

The nonprofit offers mature workers a one-year fellowship, typically in a professional capacity at another nonprofit, to help them re-enter the job market. This is a temporary arrangement and pays just
$25,000. It’s an arrangement that fits the needs of all participants, and it has broader ramifications: as the population ages, keeping older workers in the workforce could boost the economy, alleviate retirement insecurity, and ease strain on the social-safety net. The organization estimates that 31 million Americans ages 44 to 70 want to find work with a bigger social impact. However, it is generally harder for older workers to find new jobs than younger workers, and a bad economy has exacerbated the trend. In 2011, the average job seeker over age 55 was spending 35 weeks looking for a job, compared to 26 weeks for younger job seekers, according to federal statistics. Encore fellowships help older workers get their foot in the door.


Deloitte offers two options for sabbaticals: one month or three to six months, which can also be combined with PTO. Professionals are eligible for the shorter option after only six months of continuous service, and for
the longer one after two years of consecutive service. For additional sabbaticals, employees are eligible again for a one-month period off after one year of no sabbaticals, and the three-to-six month time off after they
haven’t taken one-month in a year, or three-to-six months in the past three years. One employee used their sabbatical to work on high-impact projects for Chicago’s non profit pro bono consulting services Civic Consulting Alliance. In 2014, 94 complete sabbaticals were taken, in addition to 21 others that overlapped with 2013.

General Mills offers sabbaticals lasting a minimum of four weeks and maxing out at 12 weeks. To qualify, regular full-time and part-time employees must have served seven years with the company. Additional
sabbaticals are earned after each subsequent seven years worked after a sabbatical is taken.

Adobe employees may take a sabbatical for every five years of tenure. The first sabbatical is four weeks, then at the 10-year mark employees are entitled to five weeks’ sabbatical. After 15 years, the time off increases to
six weeks, and it stays at that length for every subsequent five years. Sabbaticals can also be applied to extend other leaves such as maternity or parental. In the one-year span between April 1, 2013 and April 1, 2014, 411
employees took advantage of this benefit, including one who traveled to Romania to volunteer with Habitat for Humanity constructing houses. The Adobe Life blog showcases some additional stories of employees
volunteering in their time off.

PwC offers a four week long sabbatical to employees, depending on their status, after having stayed with the company for about five to seven years. That’s in additional to the 15 to 22 days of vacation offered on a yearly
basis to workers. In the fiscal year 2015, 673 workers took advantage of the benefit.

Boston Consulting Group offers an eight week paid sabbatical to those who have been a partner with the firm for a minimum of five years. Partners are given the choice of going on a sabbatical after every five years, in addition to the yearly option of going on vacation for 20 days. On average, about 20 people per year take advantage of the benefit. The purpose of the sabbatical program is for partners to reflect and rejuvenate. Some of the ways they’ve chosen to do this include visiting an ashram in India to mediate, or teaching at one of the country’s top business schools. BCG also invites all consultants with more than a year of service to take
voluntary, unpaid time off to recharge in an eight week leave of absence program called ‘Time Off for You’. Participants retain the majority of their benefits during that time off.

Sabbaticals aren’t just for big companies. MeetUp, a Silicon Alley-based company that helps people plan meetings, has revenues of $12 million a year and about 75 employees. Yet, the company launched a sabbatical
program, open to any employee who has been at MeetUp for at least seven years. Brendan McGovern, MeetUp CFO and a co-founder, was the first to take sabbatical, going on a three-month, round-the-world tour. Since then, three other MeetUp employees have gone on three-month sabbaticals.

The software company Autodesk, .provides six-week sabbaticals to employees every four years, and that length of the time away can be combined with other paid time off. Some 390 employees went on sabbatical last year. Sarah Krasley, who is the senior sustainable manufacturing lead at Autodesk, wanted to use her sabbatical to
“see the other side of the equation, the human impact.” She felt greatly impacted by the 2013 Rana Plaza factory collapse in Dhaka, Bangladesh, which became the purpose for her sabbatical. Krasley spent two months
in Bangladesh and Cambodia with the goal of improving factory worker safety through technology and volunteering with the existing human rights efforts in those regions. The company showcases these types of employee experiences to promote Autodesk as an employer of choice.

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