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#EqualTees by Sona Circle

Equal TeesReading Time: 3 minutes

 

Equal Tees

 

By Katy Cottrell, Sona Circle

As coronavirus swept across the UK many business sectors were hit extremely hard. The resulting increase in unemployment has been felt across the country, and especially in major cities like London, Manchester and Birmingham. One group of individuals that has felt the impact the most has been refugees and asylum seekers, with unemployment rates reaching new dire levels. Pre-COVID the refugee unemployment rate was at 18% as opposed to the general UK population unemployment rate of 3.9%.

Sona Circle connects socially conscious employers with the skilled and dependable refugee workforce and has a track record of promoting equality in the workplace and in employment for Refugees, Asylum Seekers, Immigrants and BAME individuals alike.

In our brand new campaign, #EqualTees, we invite members of the public to take an active stance on promoting true equality across the nation. By purchasing and wearing an Equal Tee, you do not just contribute to the social responsibility of looking after those in need, you are also making a public statement that discrimination and prejudice needs to end.

The proceeds raised by the Equal Tees campaign are distributed directly towards workplace equality and refugee employment.

Onaseye Onabolu, the founder of Sona Circle, shares his excitement:

“It’s time for us to come together as a community to take a stand for what we believe in. This is true equality in society, in the workplace and on the streets of our neighbourhoods. By wearing an Equal Tee you are courageously demonstrating that you value equality”.

Sona Circle match participating employers with bright, committed and job-ready refugees so they can gain valuable hands-on experience in business. By creating these opportunities for refugees, the nation is coming together and combatting the discrimination and stigma in hiring practices that contribute to refugee unemployment. 

By wearing an Equal Tee you are standing in solidarity with any group in society that has been unfairly treated or discriminated against, this does not end with refugees and asylum seekers, it includes the Black Lives Matter movement, LGBTQ+ rights, gender equality and BAME rights.

Why should you support the work of Sona Circle Recruitment?

Many refugees experience pervasive discrimination in their host country after resettlement. This bias is often manifested (whether intended or not) through exclusion, particularly in the workplace. 

As a result, the UK unemployment rate is 4x higher for the refugee population than the British population. This can have negative effects on refugees’ ability to integrate into their host country and provide for themselves and their families. 

Sona Circle promotes workplace equality by educating employers on the valuable skills that refugees can bring to businesses and how they can make their hiring practices more refugee-friendly. 

What can I do to help? 

By purchasing an Equal Tee and wearing it in your place of work or in your community you can ensure that the discussion of true equality in society is continued. 

Additionally, you can introduce the work of Sona Circle at your office and support the mission of combatting debilitating unemployment within the Refugee and Asylum Seeker community.

If you’re able to make a donation, please visit the Sona Circle JustGiving page to share the social responsibility of caring for those in need.

Finally, If you would like more information on how Sona Circle can support you and your business, please do get in touch. 

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Refugee Access to Technology During the Covid-19 Pandemic

Reading Time: 3 minutes

 

 

By Katy Cottrell, Sona Circle

During the Covid-19 pandemic, many of us have felt grateful for the digital world which has helped us stay in touch with loved ones, informed with important information and constantly entertained. However, recent research from Breaking Barriers has highlighted the discrepancy in digital access between refugees living in the UK and the British population. 

Breaking Barriers’ research showed that only 54% of refugees surveyed had access to a laptop or computer, compared to 88% of the British population. 

Worse still, only 43% of the refugee population had access to both a laptop or computer as well as WIFI in their homes. With alternative means of accessing the digital world, such as libraries or internet cafes being closed during the pandemic, many refugees have been left isolated and unable to maintain regular contact with their support systems. 

Online access is important to help refugees integrate and form stable lives in their host country. 

Many refugees use online resources to search for job openings and to prepare for interviews. Often refugees need to familiarise themselves with British hiring practices and workplace culture before making applications. Additionally, in this period many companies have been conducting interviews over video conferencing software such as Zoom and Skype, meaning that those who do not have reliable internet access are immediately on a back foot and are unable to move forward in the hiring process. 

A lack of reliable internet access also affects refugees’ ability to engage in educational material, for those who are at school or University or are learning English online. With Breaking Barriers also finding that younger refugees were even less likely to have access to a laptop or computer than their older counterparts, it is likely that there are many young refugees in the UK who have struggled to keep up to date with lesson content. 

This problem is likely to continue when term starts again in September. However, this issue has been identified by some local communities. For example, the Phoenix Community Centre in Tottenham found that some unaccompanied minors living in supportive housing had been unable to continue their studies when the colleges they attended moved their syllabus online. Fortunately, the Phoenix Community Centre was able to raise funds to provide laptops for the group so that they could successfully complete their studies. 

It is also important for refugees to have online access as a form of support, particularly during lockdown which has been emotionally and mentally challenging for many of us. 

Not only do refugees rely on informal support from family and friends on social media, but many are also supported by charities who have begun to provide support online. 

For example, Young Roots, a charity which supports refugees with issues such as housing, immigration and emotional support, have converted their youth groups to online sessions due to Covid-19. 

However, they also found that many would be unable to attend due to a lack of access to technology. In response, Young Roots have been raising funds to provide basic phones and data vouchers to refugees so they can remain in contact with them. With the NHS advising that staying in contact with others during the pandemic is crucial for maintaining good mental health, it is important that refugees can continue to receive support from charitable services and loved ones.

Overall, the research from Breaking Barriers has identified yet another additional challenge faced by refugees in the UK. The effects of limited online access are widespread, affecting so many areas of life including employment, education and wellbeing. Until society has returned to normality post-pandemic it is important for businesses, schools and organisations to be mindful of populations who are not able to engage with material and events conducted online.

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5 Tips for Refugees on How to Write a Resume

Reading Time: 4 minutes

 

 

By Carol Duke, Contributor

There are many reasons people around the world seek to build a new life in a different country. For refugees, this can mean leaving their home country entirely. Once you settle in and rebuild your life, it’s time to seek a new job. Of course, what better way to start your journey than by writing a winning resume?

A lot of refugees have great skills and job experience. But if you’re in a new country, chances are the expectations and cultural norms are different from what you’re accustomed to. This applies to crafting a resume as well. 

To increase your chances of landing a job, you’ll have to craft and adapt a resume that matches the expectations of hiring managers. Below are five important resume writing tips refugees and immigrants must know:

Tip #1: Essential information should be at the top.

While every resume or CV is unique and what’s included changes from one job market to another, there are essential information that should always be included on any resume. These are:

  • Your complete name (make it bold and use a shortened version of your name for easy reading)
  • Contact details (including e-mail and phone number; home address is optional)
  • Academic background
  • Previous job experience and a short description of each

Things you can opt NOT to include in your resume are personal information such as:

  • Country of origin or immigration status
  • Birthday and age
  • Marital status
  • Religion
  • Political affiliation
  • Any personal ID (i.e. social insurance, driver’s license)

It’s better to avoid including this information in your resume as they could be used against you. Additionally, they may not be relevant to the job and can be viewed by a hiring manager as oversharing or unprofessional. 

Typically, personal information is required only during the interview or when you’ve already accepted a job offer.

Tip #2: Showcase your skills.

This entirely depends on the type of job you’re applying for. But if your work is on the technical side and you’re tapping into multiple industries, it can be a great idea to list down your skills and proficiencies, including the tools and software you use.  

On the other hand, it may not be necessary to add a skills section for “soft” skills such as communication, leadership, etc., especially if they’re not relevant to the job. In most cases, hiring managers and recruiters view this section as insignificant and unnecessary.

The only exception to the rule would be if you’re an entry-level applicant and you have limited experience to showcase. If this is the case, a skills section can help add much-needed depth to your resume.

Tip #3: List your accomplishments.

In many countries, a resume can be a simple list of your job experience, with very little added detail. In countries like the US, UK, and Canada, an applicant is expected to highlight their accomplishments and strengths. Basically, you’re selling yourself on your resume.

Simply listing down your daily duties may not cut it. Your future boss will expect to see the impact you’ve had in your previous job or projects, instead of just a boring list of responsibilities. 

For example, instead of writing “created mobile app for a client”, consider “created a mobile app using [app development software] to create a responsive version of our biggest client’s website, making it more accessible to customers”. The underlying responsibilities appear the same, but the latter is more specific and more impressive. 

BONUS TIP:

Consider writing down your accomplishments in reverse chronological format. It’s the standard way of writing a resume in the US and UK, and it’s not too bad to get yourself familiar with it. It simply requires you to list down your latest work experience and achievements first, and your oldest last. Don’t forget to include the date range for each accomplishment!

Tip #4: Get the help of a friend (or a professional).

If you’re in doubt or feeling lost about what to write in your resume or CV, it may be time to call a friend or hire a professional writer. 

There’s nothing wrong about getting a little help to polish up your resume. A friend who’s had previous experience crafting a resume can be a big help but if this option isn’t available for you, your next best bet would be to hire a resume writer for a relatively small fee. For many refugee job-seekers, this option quickly pays itself off and has helped them land a great job. 

Of course, you should always be wary of scammers and fraudsters, which is why it’s important to look into writing service reviews first before paying someone to work on your resume or CV. 

If hiring a professional isn’t an option either, know that there are plenty of non-profit organizations out there that help refugees and immigrants build fundamental skills like resume writing. You can start by looking for them in your community!

Tip #5: Talk about your volunteer experience(s).

A lot of refugees don’t include the many ways they’ve volunteered and helped their own community. For instance, you may be well-versed in English or any other language, and you’ve translated for other members of your community. 

Unless the only people you’ve helped is your family, you can include this in your resume as part of your volunteer experience. 

Once you’ve learned to write a killer resume that’s tailor-designed to your next job prospect, you’re one step closer to getting a paycheck! Make sure to take them to heart so you can spend less time applying and more time earning money.

About the writer: Carol Duke is very keen on teaching students new, effective ways of learning. When not freelancing and blogging on marketing-related matters, Carol enjoys travelling, taking immense pleasure from visiting new countries.

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Business Grants to Support Companies Hiring Refugees

Business grants for RefugeesReading Time: 2 minutes

 

Business Funding for Refugees

 

By Zoe Allen, Sona Circle

Hiring Refugees: Funding for Your Business

 

Having discovered the benefits of hiring refugees, you might be interested in exploring some avenues that could provide extra funding for a new hire. For training schemes, like apprenticeships, there is government funding available, and you may also be able to access other grants specific to your local area or sector. 

Funding for Apprentices

In our recent blog, we introduced the UK Apprenticeship Levy and how you can access funding for apprentices in the UK, including those from minority or disadvantaged backgrounds. You can read the post here for more. 

In addition to this initiative, local authorities sometimes provide grants for growth and new recruitment, including apprentices.

Funding for Graduates

If you are looking to hire a refugee who is also a UK university graduate, there are several grants and funding opportunities to assist with this. 

For example, a Knowledge Transfer Partnership could work for you if you want to run a particular project, or the Santander SME internships programme is a fantastic scheme that supports anyone to access an internship with a UK SME but gives priority and extra funding to (under)graduates from disadvantaged backgrounds. 

You’ll need to be in contact with a university near you who runs this programme to get involved. 

Funding for Specific Sectors

Some sectors may have their own authorities or charities that will provide grants to help you hire from disadvantaged or minority communities. 

For the creative sector, take a look at Creative Access, and there may be similar schemes available for your sector too. 

Local Grants for Creating New Opportunities

There are many local charities and authorities who will support SMEs to hire new recruits who qualify for diversifying your business by hiring refugees. 

Most of these opportunities focus on growth for your business and specify the creation of new roles in your business within six or twelve months. These may be training roles, like interns or apprentices. 

You’ll need to do some research to find some in your area, but here are some examples from Arun District Council and New Anglia. 

Learn more 

If you think these opportunities could work for you and you’re interested in finding help to hire a talented intern or apprentice for your business, then Sona Circle can help.

Contact us now to learn more about our 3-month internship programme to help empower refugees into work.

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Quick Guide to Apprenticeship Funding for Businesses

Apprenticeships for UK BusinessesReading Time: 3 minutes

 

Apprenticeships for UK Businesses

 

By Zoe Allen, Sona Circle

In the UK, the government provides a huge amount of funding and incentives for businesses to encourage them to hire apprentices. For larger businesses, this includes the apprenticeship levy scheme. If your business if not yet taking advantage of this, then read on to learn more about the funding available and how it could benefit your business.

What are apprenticeships?

Apprenticeships are paid training roles within a company that provide practical, on-the-job training for a particular trade or career. They are provided by a host business and a training provider, such as a local college, where the apprentices also learn about the trade in a classroom setting. At least 20% of the apprentice’s time will be spent with the training provider. An apprenticeship can take between one and six years to complete.

To read the UK government’s guidelines on apprenticeships schemes, click here.

Apprenticeships develop a dedicated and qualified talent pipeline, suited perfectly to your company. It gives businesses the opportunity to train employees specifically for your company and roles that you may have in the future. Take a look at this article discussing why you should hire an apprentice.

What’s more, if your business has a payroll of over £3 million, you will already be paying an apprenticeship levy which you can invest back into apprenticeships. If you are a smaller business, you are eligible to have 95% of your apprentice’s funding costs paid by the UK government. Read on to learn more.

The apprenticeship levy

In 2017, a new levy was introduced to encourage large businesses to provide high-quality apprenticeships.

If your company has a payroll of over £3 million, you will pay 0.5% of the monthly payroll (minus a levy allowance of 15,000) into a fund that can then be used to fund apprenticeship training. In addition, the UK government will add an extra 10% into this fund.

You then have 24 months to spend your levy fund on apprenticeship schemes within your business, or with partners in your supply chain (up to 25% of your fund). If you have not spent this money on apprentices after 24 months, it will be claimed by HMRC.

I, n a nutshell, if you aren’t investing the levy back into your business through training apprentices, you lose it.

It’s also worth remembering that apprentices do not have to be young, untrained, new recruits. The money can be spent on training current employees, people of any age, or on people who already have some training or higher education, including people with degrees.

To learn more, take a look at this useful page and video from the Apprenticeship Academy.

What if my company has a payroll of less than £3 million?

If you do not qualify for paying the apprenticeship levy, you are eligible for direct government funding of up to 95% of an apprentice’s training and assessment with a training provider. You will pay in 5%.

In some situations, you may also be eligible for extra funding, especially if the apprentice is from a disadvantaged background.

You can find out more on the UK government website.

Would it work for you?

Absolutely.

Training a skilled and dedicated apprentice can be an extremely affordable, effective and efficient way to train your ideal, diverse employees and can work for businesses of any size.

If you are a large business who already pays the apprenticeship levy, if you do not hire apprentices you could be losing significant amounts of money that could be reinvested into your business.

If you are a smaller business, it can cost you a very small amount to hire and train your ideal employees with the government funding 95% of training.

At Sona Circle Recruitment, we are on a mission to help more refugees and people seeking asylum in the UK access valuable training and employment to allow them to integrate into their new lives in the UK.

With refugees often being young in age and experience, arriving from a break from work, or not used to UK workplace culture, apprenticeships are an ideal way to help talented, positive and bright refugees integrate into the UK workforce. Refugees and people seeking asylum are eligible for apprenticeship funding and may even be eligible for even more, circumstance-specific funding.

If you want to learn more about why refugees can be an asset to any business, read our blog post here.

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Lift the Ban Campaign: A Campaign Lobbying for Asylum Seekers’ Right to Work in the UK

A Campaign Lobbying for Asylum SeekersReading Time: 3 minutes

 

A Campaign Lobbying for Asylum Seekers

 

By Katie McAdam, Sona Circle

After seeking protection in their host country, asylum seekers must face an arduous journey to gain refugee status and the right to paid work in the UK. Unable to access the services and freedoms enjoyed by refugees, asylum seekers are in an uncomfortable limbo. As of March 2020, 60% of all pending asylum applicants had been waiting for over 6 months for a decision on their status, According to the UK Home Office.

During these extensive waiting periods, asylum seekers are reliant on state Asylum Support of £5.60 per day to cover all living costs (except housing). With inadequate resources, though asylum seekers may have emergency humanitarian protection they face the great threat of absolute poverty.

In response to the UK’s current asylum policy, the Lift the Ban campaign launched to repeal the employment bar on asylum seekers.

Their campaign aims to reduce the maximum one-year employment bar to 6 months after their claim if no decision is made. Additionally, they aim for all asylum cases to be equally prioritised instead of using the government’s ‘shortage occupations list’, which fast-tracks the applications of limited roles.

Lift the Ban was initially founded by NGO, Refugee Action, and has attracted the backing of a large coalition of over 200 partner groups. These partners are largely based in the third sector, including Amnesty International, the Trussel Trust and Sona Circle Recruitment. This network has collaborated to share expertise and resources in order to produce a prominent campaign which has received considerable media traction with both social media and the traditional press.

Lift the Ban believes giving asylum seekers the right to work in the UK, would lead to significant economic advantages.

In an era of austerity and current financial uncertainty due to coronavirus, government spending is increasingly stretched. Allowing asylum seekers the right to work would be more cost-efficient for the UK government and would go as far as generating revenue.

Indeed, Refugee Action has calculated that for every asylum seeker earning the UK national average wage, the government would receive an extra £5,745 per person per year in taxable income.

This revenue is almost three times the amount government currently pays per individual in asylum support. The combination of increased revenue and reduction in government benefit payments would allow improvements of existing asylum related social services.

Apart from the clear economic benefits of lifting restrictions, the easing would also cause vital societal improvements. With over 37% of asylum seekers university-educated, the UK is denying itself access to a well-trained workforce on its doorstep.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, these restrictions are particularly detrimental.

Refugee Action has stated that around 1 in 7 asylum seekers have a background in health and social care. Due to bureaucratic delays, around the nation from Glasgow tenements to London suburbs, qualified asylum seekers must, therefore, stay at home willing and unable to aid the NHS.

Health is also tied to employment on an individual basis as it impacts the wellbeing of asylum seekers. With many asylum seekers leaving well paid, highly skilled jobs in their home countries, months spent economically inactive reliant on state benefits is a real difficulty.

Being unemployed for a lengthened period leaves asylum seekers prone to mental health problems, with the NHS reporting a doubling of susceptibility to mental illness. This likelihood is elevated amongst asylum seekers who are already vulnerable to mental health conditions due to experiencing trauma in their home nations. An improvement in the wellbeing of asylum seekers would not only see individual improvements but also decrease the need for NHS mental health provisions.

This need for systematic change is gathering momentum even at the highest echelons of government.

Indeed, in 2018 the Home Office commissioned a report on the right to work policy and in 2019 the incumbent Home Secretary, Javid agreed to examine asylum reform. It is clear thanks to the campaigning of Lift the Ban we are becoming closer to a fairer and more beneficial system.

However, the onus remains high on swift reform as the longer asylum seekers remain unemployed the more potential is unutilised and the lesser their future employment prospects. Instead of wasting limited public funds on ineffective benefits, we could be enabling economic growth and social change.

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6 Ways to Convince your Employer to Hire Refugees

Reading Time: 2 minutes

 

 

By Katy Cottrell, Sona Circle

If you feel passionately about workplace equality and the social integration of refugees, addressing a lack of diversity in your own workspace is a great place to start. But having these types of conversations with your employers can be difficult, which is why we have created a list of key points that you can use to convince your boss to hire refugees.

1. Consumers care about diversity and inclusion

If your employer is reluctant to hire refugees, it’s good to point out that consumers are increasingly concerned with the ethical values of the businesses they support. For example, in 2017 the Cone Communications CSR study found that 78% of consumers say they want companies to address important social justice issues. Additionally, 87% said they would purchase a product because a company advocated for an issue they cared about.

With an increase in awareness of systemic racism and racial bias, thanks to the Black Lives Matter protests, this stance is likely to gain some traction. Therefore, hiring refugees may have the advantage of satisfying socially conscious customers.

2. You could attract other skilled labour

Additionally, research has shown that millennials specifically want to work for companies that are more diverse and inclusive, and this affects which jobs they apply to. A study by Deloitte also found that millennials are more engaged with their jobs when they perceive their workplaces to be more inclusive.

3. Refugees have a variety of employable skills

One reason many companies are reluctant to employ refugees is out of a perception that they lack relevant experience. However, often refugees’ valuable qualifications and overseas experience are not recognised by UK employers. Therefore, the refugee population could be a large skilled workforce with untapped potential.
It’s a good idea to encourage your employer to be more open-minded about the types of previous experience and qualifications that could be highly relevant to their business.

4. You should practice what you preach

If your employer likes to pride themselves on being socially conscious or ‘human centric’, it’s worth reminding them that hiring refugees and creating a more diverse workplace, is a great way to prove that they really are.

5. You could be nominated for a diversity award

In various employment sectors there are a growing number of awards for diversity and inclusion. Examples include, the Employee Engagement Awards and the Inclusive Company Awards. Being awarded with recognition for workplace diversity is something a company can pride themselves on, and will illustrate to consumers that they are dedicated to inclusivity.

6. Sona Circle Recruitment can help

At Sona Circle Recruitment, we connect socially conscious employers with the skilled and dependable refugee workforce in the UK. Our refugee internship programme matches qualified and committed members of the refugee workforce with exciting new start-ups and growth businesses.

How else can I help?

You can also show your support by making a donation (no matter how big or small) to the Sona Circle Refugee Employment Fund where 100% of donations go directly to supporting refugee employment in the UK.

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Miss Manchester, Miss Yorkshire and an aspiring 2020 Olympic swimmer

Reading Time: 3 minutes

 

What do the current Miss Manchester 2018/19, Miss Yorkshire 2018/19 and an aspiring 2020 Olympic swimmer have in common? Aside from a future filled with the opportunity of fame and glory, this trio of talented individuals who have already displayed an distinct talent for propelling themselves into the spotlight for their remarkable achievements in a variety of fields, have something much more profound which connects them. In addition to being national superstars, the two beauty queens and the exceptional athlete who are all young, driven and gifted… are all refugees.

Having almost qualified as a doctor in her native Syria, Lin Hussin was forced to relocate to the UK as a refugee after her house was bombed in the war. She had no choice but to begin her bio-medical science degree from scratch at Sheffield University in a completely new language. Today, Lin is in the final year of her degree, she works as an interpreter, a radio presenter, she organises charity events and she has remarkably been crowned Miss Yorkshire 2018/19.

The trend continues with Fatime Gashi, a bio-medical science graduate, who knows what it means to maximise opportunities in life. Having resettled in the UK as a Kosovan refugee, Fatime is the current Miss Manchester 2018/19 and is the first contestant in the history of the competition to get a perfect score from all the judges. She now wants to redefine what it means to be a modern day beauty queen, part of which involves changing people’s perception of refugees.

In 2016, Eid Aljazairli nearly drowned trying to cross the Mediterranean in a bid to get into Europe. A year later, he stunned swimming experts by becoming a competitive swimmer in just 12 months and is now training for the 2020 Olympics. Eid could barely swim when he fled Damascus and took his chance on a small, barely seaworthy vessel that took him across the Mediterranean. He is now clocking 43 seconds for the 50-metre freestyle, and at this rate, his coaches believe he has a strong chance of competing at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

Introducing SonaTalks

So what else do these exceptional individuals have in common? Lin, Fatime and Eid will be sharing their inspiring stories and ideas at the SonaTalks event in September which is being held at Kindred members club in Hammersmith. SonaTalks is a global community that brings together leading thinkers and doers in all areas relating to refugees, to share ideas in a range of disciplines. The inaugural event entitled ‘Celebrating Potential in Refugee Communities’ is a programme of volunteer-led talks that bring people together to share worthwhile conversations. Other speakers at the SonaTalks event are set to include; Jaz O’Hara, the founder of Worldwide Tribe, Marchu Girma, the director of Women for Refugee Women and Jess Thompson, the founder of Migrateful.

The event is being organised by the founders of Sona Circle, a networking and recruitment platform that connects refugees with their immediate surroundings, local opportunities and each other. It has been described by the organisers as “a day of celebration to focus on the achievements and successes in our refugee communities; a day at a lovely venue with good food, great speakers, inspirational talks and an after party celebration to end the day”. By following in the footsteps of organisations such as Starbucks, Ikea and Nemi Teas, Sona Circle is modernising the approach to hiring refugees with the hope of encouraging other organisations to follow suit.

This event is one of a growing number of voices currently working towards changing the narrative about the impact which refugees have on their host communities. Another notable example of these is the ‘Lift the Ban’ campaign led by Refugee Action, a coalition of over a hundred and forty public and private organisations, campaigning to give asylum seekers the right to work in the UK. The restrictive approach that the UK currently takes makes it an outlier within Europe. Opinion polls show that the public strongly supports the right to work for people seeking asylum with the most recent data suggesting that over 71% of people in Britain are in favour.

Last week, the Sun reported that the Home Secretary was under pressure by the Treasury to allow asylum-seekers to work in Britain. The article notes that, “The Treasury has demanded the Home Secretary reduce the spiralling bill for claimants in the UK, which now stretches into the hundreds of millions every year. One idea being looked at is to end the long standing ban on foreign nationals who have claimed asylum taking jobs.”

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ABC News

Reading Time: 3 minutes

 

For highly skilled refugees, an opportunity to translate language skills into work

by Davi Merchan, ABC News

LONDON — Ahmed fled Syria knowing he might never return. He understood he would have to say goodbye to friends and loved ones, to the life he had worked so hard to build.

But he never thought taking refuge in another land would mean never practicing dentistry again, giving up on almost 10 years of sacrifices and hard work for a career he profoundly loved. Since immigrating to the U.K. in 2015, he has not been able to practice dentistry again.

“No one tells you that they won’t hire you,” Ahmed told ABC News. “But you feel it, the stigma. I feel it, many times, I feel it.”

Ahmed spoke to ABC News on condition of anonymity and asked to use a pseudonym in order to not jeopardize his dental certification application.

‘I’ve wanted to feel this feeling since I came to the United Kingdom. To feel like I can be helpful.’

Since coming to the U.K., he said he has spent hundreds of dollars in exam fees to get certified to practice. He said he meticulously saves what cash he can from the refugee allowance he receives from the UK government and splits his money between providing for his now-pregnant wife and saving for the certification exams.

Ahmed’s is a struggle familiar to many refugees around the world.

“We can’t pretend that refugees don’t experience racism and discrimination in the labor market, and that will negatively impact their access to jobs and the jobs that they might seek,” Alice Bloch, a professor of sociology at the University of Manchester, told ABC News.

In her research, Bloch has found that refugees are consistently underemployed. As a result, they often have gaps in their resumes. For highly skilled refugees, the problem worsens as the lack of practice tends to lower their chances of landing a job in their fields.

And like Ahmed, many refugees give up on their former careers when they are forced to flee to other countries. According to the Department of Labor, foreign-born workers are less likely to be employed in professional, management or related occupations than U.S. born workers.

“Recertification is a long and costly process in the United States,” Molly Fee, a Ph.D. student researching forced migration and refugee resettlement at the University of California, Los Angeles, told ABC News.

“Since early employment is a necessity for refugees as soon as they arrive, refugees typically have to accept the first job opportunity available,” Fee said.

For many refugees, that means taking entry-level jobs and changing their career paths.

Fee said that some refugees are able to successfully readjust their career goals. For example, former doctors get certified as nurses or medical technicians so they can continue to work in their fields of expertise.

For Ahmed, he has chosen to pursue both dentistry and a new profession.

A few months ago, Ahmed heard about Sona Circle, a networking app that helps refugees find employment opportunities in their areas.

Archibald Troko, one of Sona Circle’s co-founders, said it’s about giving refugees hope so they can say, “‘Hey, look, I haven’t just been discarded and fall through the cracks of society.”

With close to 2,000 users in New York, London and other major cities and the ability to connect refugees with employers, Ahmed said he hoped to find a job through Sona Circle.

Instead, Ahmed found work through the company’s other brainchild, Sona Translate, a new company that aims to employ mostly refugees as translators and interpreters.

Ahmed said he spent his first year in the U.K. learning technical and advanced English to help him get re-certified in dentistry. Now, he brings those language skills to his new job at Sona Translate, which also allows him to fund his continuing studies.

“I’ve wanted to feel this feeling since I came to the United Kingdom,” Ahmed said. “To feel like I can be helpful.”

Troko said the service also hopes to change people’s views about refugees.

“We hope to really inspire people to try and take on a new business model to support vulnerable communities,” Troko said.

Sona Translate launched in the U.K. on Oct. 19, and Troko said the company plans to expand to the U.S., Canada and Australia over the next two months.

You can read the article here