From education to employment

Skills, training and education – working with the refugee community could be the answer we are looking for?

Many refugees arriving in the UK face huge challenges establishing themselves with many not possessing qualifications and experience that are recognised in this country or knowing the right way to gain recognition for and apply their skills.

At the same time, many critical industries are facing severe skills shortages. Supporting refugees to enter the workforce and make best use of their abilities can benefit refugees themselves and the wider UK economy.

For many years, refugees escaping from wars, political and social upheaval have come to the UK seeking a better life. However, many of these people face significant challenges establishing themselves in a new country where they may not have qualifications and experience that are recognised in this country and know the right way to gain recognition for and apply their skills. Yet, we have massive questions to address around skills shortages and how to achieve growth across the UK.

Refugees want to have the opportunity to work and build a life for themselves and their families just like anybody else. However, to do that, just like anyone else they need support to develop workplace skills and access training to achieve career success and long-term financial stability and in doing so start to feel more settled in a new community and home.

While City & Guilds has a long history of working with organisations focused on supporting people from refugee backgrounds, recent global events which have displaced millions of people have created a renewed focus on this important aspect of our work.

Partnering with four new UK charities

This is why, last year, City & Guilds Foundation partnered with four new UK charities committed to supporting refugees by providing training support, work experience, on-line learning opportunities and working with businesses to help them to be become more inclusive to refugees when hiring staff.

The Positive Youth Foundation, Routes Collective, the Launchpad Collective and Breaking Barriers each specialise in addressing specific challenges faced by refugees in accessing training and career opportunities. These are all organisations with a wealth of experience and knowledge on how best to offer support, and our decision to partner with them was based on maximising our shared expertise to offer more as a skills organisation and funder.

Supporting people to develop their skills has always been at the core of what we do at City & Guilds, and this commitment applies to everyone – put simply we believe in skills for all. We are thrilled then, to be able to offer £150k in funding to these organisations alongside our ongoing support. This has become all the more important if we look at the career aspirations that some young people from refugee backgrounds hold.

The recent Youth Misspent report

Our recent Youth Misspent report explored the employment and training challenges facing 18-24 year olds in the UK today and revealed that over half of those from a refugee background (54%) do not believe that they will ever be able to achieve their career ambitions. This is compared to 30% of the general population.

While many young people are facing a very challenging environment when they enter the workforce, it is clear that those from refugee backgrounds will face unique barriers to securing fulfilling, stable employment being 4 times more likely to be unemployed than people born in the UK and earning on average just half per week of what UK nationals do. These figures are reflected in perception among those from refugee backgrounds that the labour market is a hostile one with limited opportunities.

Understanding the issue

Understanding the issue is of course vital to developing effective solutions. This is why we ensured that our research shed light on what measures younger people from refugee backgrounds feel would be most effective in accessing training and career development opportunities.

27% indicated that more flexible courses would allow them to study around their responsibilities while 24% mentioned access to financial support for accommodation or travel costs for work experience and training.

Positive Youth Foundation, Routes Collective and Breaking Barriers have all been proactive in aiming to address these issues, offering bespoke training, mentoring including flexible online learning to help equip refugees with vital skills to support their transition into the workplace.

It’s also vital to understand that, in many cases, people arriving in the UK will possess valuable skills and experience which have the potential to benefit employers and help meet much needed demand in the labour market. Helping to build confidence across all sides, is often just as critical as providing technical training so that more people are, empowered to make use of their.

For example, our Youth Misspent also found that 24% of 18–24-year-olds from a refugee background valued efforts made by employers to create a welcoming environment.

The Launchpad Collective, another of the organisations we are supporting, focuses on addressing this challenge, having created an inclusive recruitment toolkit which provides advice and support for employers to hire people from refugee backgrounds.

In 2021, our Great Jobs report highlighted that many of the UK’s most critical industries are suffering from sever skills shortages. For employers, the 135,000 refugees living the UK represent a valuable pool of untapped talent, and by taking simple steps to make their recruitment more inclusive employers can gain access to hard working and skilled individuals.

Focus On the Future

Our commitment to support and partner with Breaking Barriers, The Launchpad Collective, Positive Youth Foundation and Routes collective is a positive but it is just one part of a much bigger equation and a wider societal approach that employers can lead along with skills providers.

City & Guilds Foundation has always worked on the basis of looking how we can use our grants and support to have the biggest social impact, working with charities that are making a real difference to the issues they tackle.

As an organisation committed to supporting individuals and organisations to develop skills for growth, we believe that these new partnerships can assist both refugees themselves and employers across the UK, opening up new talent pools and connecting skilled employees with businesses. They are good for people, organisations and society.

By Faiza Khan MBE, Director, Corporate Affairs and Foundation

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