Undiscovered Potential – Why Employers Need to Rethink Refugees

18 June 2018

  • Blog

This blog has been written by Julia Palmer at ACH. You can read our blog on their website.

Three quarters of businesses expect to increase the number of high-skilled roles over the coming years, but 61% fear that there will be a lack of sufficiently skilled people to fill them.

However, there is an untapped talent pool of people, it’s increasing and it’s one that employers are largely ignoring.

The past two years have been tumultuous ones, with unprecedented numbers of refugees entering the country, further austerity measures and the Brexit vote. There are more displaced people than at any other time since the Second World War. This is an estimated 65.3 million people globally, and we are facing the most serious refugee crisis for 20 years.

What we’re doing

Alongside this, corporate media has fueled a nationalistic agenda, controlling and framing a negative debate about refugees. Our #rethinkingrefugee campaign began in 2015 to address these negative portrayals of refugees in the media, and to change perceptions of refugees. We see refugees as people with talents, skills, aspirations and assets. They bring a wealth of benefits to the communities they live in.

For businesses, overlooking these benefits means overlooking a valuable opportunity. Research suggests that refugees tend to be motivated to integrate quickly, both by improving their English and gaining employment. With existing skills and experience, and the motivation to learn and succeed, refugees represent significant potential assets to businesses.

Working in Bristol, Birmingham and Wolverhampton, in a culturally sensitive manner – building an inclusive ecosystem for business is at the heart of our work. It’s not just about finding homes for people, it’s about empowering refugees with the tools they need to find work, or start a business and move on, creating jobs, opportunities, a happy home and a future for their families. It’s a skills revolution which businesses are being slow to take advantage of.

Our Youth Action Programme

Starbucks is a great example of an organisation bucking the trend, reaching these potential new recruits through an innovative new programme with ACH and UK Youth to get young refugees work ready. Together we are running courses which develop the skills to work in hospitality. It has a focus on personal development, including raising confidence and aspirations. Employers also attend to learn about candidate skills whilst they are on the programme.

This aligns with our #rethinkingrefugee approach. It encourages employers to focus on candidate competencies to find the right employee. Our approach also asks them to rely on more than CVs and job interview performance.

Coming to the UK from Syria, a 23 year old enrolled on the ACH Starbucks Employment Support Programme, taking advantage of the training and interview prep that was offered. He stated what a “great opportunity” he believed it would be for him, and was very much excited to take part, and was one of the first learners to take part in this type of course in Birmingham, after our recent pilot course in Bristol.

The young refugee explained how “it was very hard at the beginning because I was doing something completely new”. But the ACH and Starbucks team were “always there to help me.”

Fortunately, the 23 year old was able to persevere with the course and landed a job with Starbucks soon after. He explained that “because it was my first time doing an interview, I had to practice for it. He was able to “get the job straight after the interview, and begin my training which was very helpful.” He credits both the ACH team and Starbucks for all their help.

Where to next?

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