Since the conflict in Ukraine began, over 10 million people have been displaced. Business is keen to support access to employment opportunities and provide other help required to overcome any barriers that might prevent those fleeing the horrifying crisis from working.

100s of UK based employers want to support refugees to find suitable jobs and live independent, dignified lives. They are keen to offer language and resettlement support and jobs aware that English language and UK certification is vital to secure meaningful, long-term employment in the UK.

We are delighted to announce that Currys plc, along with 14 other businesses, has joined the scale up of the UK Ukraine Business Consortium’s pilot program, first launched in March 2022, with PageGroup plc, PWC, FDM and Portman Dental Group.

15 companies have come on board to support the roll out, sponsoring RefuAid clients to learn English language, recertify and receive resettlement support. The UK Ukraine Business Consortium welcomes BP, Mulberry, TELUS, Currys plc, AerFin, Dunelm, Kier Group, Persimmon, OVO, Gleeds, finnCap, Gousto, Haysmcintyre, Seenit and Midcounties Co-operative. Supporters will not have the right to employ the clients at the end of their courses.

A third even larger cohort is due to be announced late summer.

There is little to no support for refugees to gain employment that corresponds to skills and experience on arrival, so many newly arrived refugees end up in survival jobs. It is here where the initial focus is being placed. Ensuring refugees can find work commensurate with experience is vital.

Most skilled professions require intensive English language tuition and UK re-accreditation to practice, which usually involves undertaking exams and/or further training. This process is prohibitively expensive for those who have sought sanctuary in the UK.

As a result, we have Neurosurgeons are working as Care Assistants, Marine Engineers driving us in the back of their cabs and Lawyers are stacking supermarket shelves. RefuAid aims to change that, providing an innovative, practical, scalable and sustainable solutions to employment for refugees in the UK.

Without structured, professional English Language tuition and employment support those who’ve sought sanctuary in the UK are unable to gain meaningful employment and, as such, are unable to rebuild their lives. Consequently, the UK labour market has an extremely high level of over qualification and underemployment among refugees. A 2017 study into Syrian refugees in Europe discovered a third were employed in either skilled work or professional services in Syria, yet 82% were unemployed in Europe.

The Story So Far

RefuAid began 2022 with 255 students studying. Thanks to the consortium and the expansion of their language programme, they now have 330 students – almost a 30% increase in capacity. Their target is to continue expanding and reach closer to 1000 students by the end of this year.

  • Since the announcement of the cohort RefuAid have also received applications from hundreds of Ukrainians in the UK in need of support. They are currently supporting engineers and other skilled refugees applying for the first UK roles with consortium members such as Page, Atkins, Impellam, Aerfin, FDM, OVO, Persimmon, PwC, Kier Group and Gousto.
  • In the last quarter, 218 Ukrainians have applied for RefuAid’s programmes (noting they support refugees of any origin). This will only escalate.

  • RefuAid currently have 19 people being supported with either pre-employment training or interviewing for specific roles via PageGroup, Kier and AerFin. An additional 3 candidates are lined up for roles at Gousto and Ovo, but the vacancies have not yet opened so do not appear on the attached.
  • From discussion with RefuAid, companies such as AerFin has set up a “launch-pad” structure to give immediate employment options to RefuAid candidates at an entry level with an accelerated development framework to match skill sets and experience to commensurate roles within the business. In parallel, RefuAid have direct access to AerFin’s ongoing recruitment drives so that obvious CV via RefuAid is matched for existing and upcoming roles.
  • This is in addition to 150 large companies (and many more smaller ones) who have engaged, keen to understand how they can be part of the solution, from Caffe Nero to Capital One, Domino’s Pizza to Dr Martens, Mitie to Mondalez, Nandos to Northumbrian Water, Sodexho to Speedy Services to Wincanton and WPP.
  • Companies such as Page, Impellam and Robert Walters are supporting the recruitment desk with software, services and support.

“My father’s side of the family came from Ukraine, fleeing pogroms and persecution. It is not surprising – but very uplifting – to see how quickly business has stepped up to fill an urgent gap in light of the Ukrainian crisis. There is an overwhelming desire to help refugees resettle and have meaningful lives, finding employment commensurate with experience. ”

Emma Sinclair MBE

Emma continues, 

The slow, bureaucratic process to set up a life in the UK needs to be sped up. This launch initiative is the first step towards significantly accelerating the pace that the United Kingdom can do that – and do that better. A second large wave of supporters has been assembled and we will shortly be ready to expand the program further. I hope through this consortium that we are seeing the beginning of much needed blue print for how to help refugees arriving on our shores to lead dignified independent lives, for all our benefit.

Over the last 3 years, RefuAid have supported over 800 people with access to language tuition, finance, and employment. We’re keen to see that grow – and fast. RefuAid have watched as lawyers have requalified and secured legal roles within companies such as Credit Suisse, have seen a mother living in a homeless shelter with her two daughters requalify over 3 years and join the NHS as a consultant on a 6-figure salary. We want to speed that up, and allow them to help more people, whatever their country of origin.”

Anna Jones, CEO, RefuAid: “Forced migration is one of the leading issues of our generation. Whilst governments must be called upon to provide safe and legal routes to sanctuary more support is needed to enable people to rebuild their lives in the new communities they find themselves. This consortium displays the amazing capacity businesses and the third sector have to create change by working together to support people and RefuAid are thrilled to be a part of it.

From ‘K’, a Ukrainian refugee currently considering a role with The Page Group: “For the first weeks of war me and my family were hiding in a village between Vasylkiv and Bila Tserkva. The sounds of frequent ballistic missile strikes and low flying fighter jets didn’t let us sleep at night, we realised it was way less chance to survive if our village would be occupied too. And so we had to quickly think of escape routes and which border it would be safer for us to get to. Our initial choice was Poland, I found it difficult to start a new life in Poland. There was already very heavy competition for jobs, as there were millions of Ukrainians in Poland in the same conditions. Finding RefuAid was like a miracle. And now I was able to work with a reliable, registered charity, who helped me with everything from finding a good host to applying for the Sponsorship Scheme. Now, since I came to London, also supports me in finding employment. I’m in touch with Kate and Steve almost every day and immensely grateful for their help! Their support means a world to me, because without them I wouldn’t have been able to apply for the Scheme and find a host here. Through them I met my wonderful host family, met their friends and neighbours who were also very keen to welcome me to the UK. I feel welcomed and accepted here, and I feel incredibly privileged to have experienced such kindness and support from people here.”

Paula Coughlan, Chief People, Communications and Sustainability Officer, Currys plc said: “With every passing day, the plight of refugees is becoming more urgent. For those coming to our country, we want to play our part in helping them adapt to life here as quickly and easily as possible. People want to feel a part of the society they’re in and make a contribution. Finding a job – the right job – is a major step on this journey and builds people’s confidence and sense of independence. As an employer that sees our colleagues as our magic ingredient, we know how important it is to attract and develop talent and to create a culture where everyone feels they belong. The people coming to our country are now a part of that talent pool and can make a huge contribution to the culture of any organisation they join. We believe that people should have access to the same kind of roles they enjoyed in their home country, and we hope that our donation will help in some way towards making that happen, whether that’s through gaining relevant local qualifications, or improving their language skills.”

RefuAid Consortium Video Link:

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