Women with science and technology qualifications are to be encouraged to use their skills when they return to work after a career break by a government-funded training initiative.

Trade and Industry Secretary Patricia Hewitt unveiled the pilot scheme that will be run in conjunction with Coventry University. The aim is to provide women with business-based training and experience to help them return to work in a field where they can utilise their scientific and technological skills and expertise.

The scheme is part of TCS, a government-funded project aimed at providing businesses with access to the skills and resources held within institutes of higher education.

Getting women back into the workplace they were once trained for is a big problem. At any one time there are 50,000 women with science and technology qualifications not working, but only around 8,000 of those who do return to work do so in a field that uses their skills.

"Women have a vital role to play across the sciences in the UK and we need to reverse the trend of mothers not returning to jobs in their chosen academic field. This is crucial both for women's personal fulfilment and for the benefits they bring to scientific research and the UK economy," explained Hewitt in her announcing the project at the British Association's Science Festival.

Hewitt has backed several initiatives aimed at boosting the number of women working in science and technology, including a prize of £30,000 to honour women's contributions to science.