One of the key factors for a refugee’s successful integration into a new country and into their new communities is employment and employability. However, many refugees in the UK struggle to gain meaningful employment despite having held down jobs in their home countries and having much-sought-after skills, experience and qualifications. With the uncertainty of the long term effects of Brexit to the economy and the labour market, more and more employers are looking to implement a refugee-friendly employment programme and some UK businesses are beginning to respond to this need by adopting refugee-friendly employment practices – all of which ultimately assists refugees in contributing to the UK economy.
Barriers to employment
In order to successfully implement refugee-friendly employment, employers need to understand the challenges refugees are faced with when looking for work. Amongst others, the top barriers to employment are:
- English language
- Employers’ recognition of skills and experience
- Personal circumstances
- Public and employer perceptions of refugees
- A lack of support
- Practical barriers (e.g. childcare, transport, accommodation)
The benefits of hiring refugees
It is important for businesses and their employees to understand how refugees benefit their host countries. There are many negative misconceptions surrounding refugees, and in order for a refugee-friendly employment programme to be successful everyone needs to be on-board and welcoming of the new workplace arrivals. The truth is, there are many benefits to hiring refugees and in doing so, businesses are also able to address core business challenges including:
- Recruitment and retention
- Skills gaps
- Employee engagement
The Maximpact Barista Vocational Training Project
In October 2018 Maximpact approached Gary Chan the owner of Brockwell Blend in Brixton, London to develop a Barista Vocational Training Project. The aim of the training project is to equip refugees with a new skill and open them up to more employment opportunities.
The Barista Vocational Training Project is open to all on a pre-arranged day of the week. During the morning session, the refugees and migrants cover “Introductory Barista Training” theory and practice coffee making. The afternoon session focusses on coffee art and job search assistance. This includes tailoring CVs to job specifications, setting up email accounts and writing covering letters.
Piloting the training project with candidate Samer
For the pilot in October 2018, Maximpact liaised with (SHP) Lambeth Tenancy Support and Refugee Support Services attached to Lambeth Council to identify two candidates to participate in the barista training at Brockwell Blend. One of these candidates was Samer, a Syrian refugee who had previously spent time in Egypt before moving with his family to the UK. Samer lives and studies in Lambeth, and previously worked as a perfume sales representative.
“The training went well; he was enthusiastic and picked up the drinks and milk texturing quickly. English language was not a hindrance as [his] communication was good. He studies at Lambeth College Wednesday-Friday and has family commitments during the weekends and most evenings. I believe this will be challenging for potential employers to work around. I have agreed to allow Samer to spend a couple of hours at my other shop, Brixton Blend, for him to shadow my staff and see a fully operational coffee shop.” – Gary Chan
The pilot training programme demonstrates the willingness and capability of refugees to learn new skills and enter new industries. It also demonstrates the responsibility UK employers have in integrating refugees into society and the rewards they may hope to garner in doing so.
Maximpact and Refugee Economic Integration
In addition to our Fast Track to Employment Programme we are striving to work more and more with UK employers across various industries to offer industry specific training programmes such as the barista training hosted by Gary Chan.
For employers wanting to implement refugee-friendly employment practices, including training opportunities, there is some groundwork to be done:
- Understand the issue. Raise awareness about refugees and outline the opportunity for your business to respond.
- Align your focus to your business needs and purpose.
- Find a partner that can support you to achieve your aims. There are various organisations such as Maximpact that are working with refugees in the UK that can assist you.
- Ensure your leaders are onboard.
Refugees come from a diverse range of backgrounds. Some are highly educated and skilled professionals, while others have low levels of education. Others will have experience in manual work, or a set of transferable skills. This diversity means that businesses in all sectors can benefit from refugee-friendly employment practices and can play a role in the integration of refugees into society.
Maximpact is encouraging all organisations to consider hiring and working with refugees. The impact you can make to an individual’s life is truly tangible. For more information or to arrange for refugee placement in your organisation, contact Caroline Kennedy at [email protected]