An internship with a difference: how Morgan Stanley is helping mothers get back to work

Return to Work programme aimed at those who have had a career break has attracted 10,000 applicants worldwide

PUBLISHED : Monday, 09 October, 2017, 1:25pm
UPDATED : Monday, 16 October, 2017, 4:38pm

Most internships are aimed at giving students a chance to gain a bit of useful work experience.

But Morgan Stanley is offering something a bit different – a programme designed to help mothers and other people who have taken a career break to get back into the workforce.

The American investment bank is inviting applications from people to join its “Return to Work” programme starting in February next year.

First launched in the US in 2014 and then in Hong Kong a year later, the scheme aims to help anyone who has at least five years’ experience but has taken a break of two years or more. Successful applicants undertake a 12-week paid internship which sees them work in different departments within the bank. Those who complete the programme and perform well could turn be rewarded with a full-time position.

We realise there are a significant number of talented people who have left the workforce for a variety of reasons such as taking care of young children
Catherine Loui Chau Chun-yi, Morgan Stanley Asia

“While our summer internship programmes are aimed at younger people with limited work experience, those who join our Return to Work programme are usually more mature and have applicable work experience. They appreciate us offering them a tangible opportunity to get back to work and they take the programme very seriously,” said Catherine Loui Chau Chun-yi, managing director and co-head of human resources of Morgan Stanley in Asia.

“The programme aims to attract talent across different backgrounds. We realise that there are a significant number of talented people who have left the workforce for a variety of reasons such as taking care of young children. We see tremendous benefits for the firm to tap into this pool of talent. Our past experience has shown that it works well,” Loui told the South China Morning Post in an interview at her office at ICC.

The programme first started at the bank’s headquarters in New York in 2014 and has since expanded to London, Budapest, India and Hong Kong. Globally, it has attracted about 10,000 applicants of which 200 have made it on to the internship programme. Some 60 per cent of these have gone on to become full-time staff.

In Asia, about 2,000 people have applied in the last two years, translating into 40 interns and 20 full-time employees.

Loui said while the programme has no gender requirement, 80 per cent of past applicants were female, mainly women who had stopped working to take care of children or ageing parents. The male candidates were usually off work to attend to family responsibilities. They are generally aged between 30 and 50 and the longest period of unemployment was for more than 15 years.

“When people have been out of the workforce for a long time, they often lack the confidence to return to the work environment. However, pooling them together to offer them training and internship opportunities helps better equip them to be ready for work,” Loui said.

Ivy Yu, who works in Morgan Stanley Asia’s human resources department with the data analytics team, is one of those who found herself back to work thanks to the internship.

“I stopped working for seven years to take care of my two young children. With both of them at school, I thought it was time for me to go back to work. I joined the programme in 2015 and found the training very useful,” Yu said.

“The company also offered me flexible working hours to attend school events. My children sometimes wonder why I can’t be with them all the time, like before, but they also appreciate that this is my job. I think it is good for them to understand that everybody has their responsibilities.”

The deadline for applications for the programme starting in February was originally on Friday, October 13. It is now extended to Friday, October 27.