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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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Transferring International Qualifications to the UK: A Guide for Refugees and Asylum Seekers

Refugee QualificationsReading Time: 5 minutes

 

 

by Zoe Allen, Sona Circle

Why Do I Need to Transfer my Qualifications?

As a refugee, if you worked in a career you loved and enjoyed in your home country, you would probably love to continue practising it in the UK. However, you need to know whether your qualifications would be accepted as proof of your skills, or allow you to get accredited for your career of choice, in the UK.

Even if you didn’t have a specific career, you probably still achieved some qualifications, either at school or at university level. These can be used to help you gain a more interesting and valuable job, rather than having to enter the UK job market at an entry-level.

Your qualifications will probably be in the language of your home country, and therefore not accessible to most recruiters. Moreover, your home country probably provided different courses and grading systems to the equivalent courses in the UK.

For some careers, such as law, the training you undertook might not have fully prepared you for practising law in the UK, and there may be more training you need to do in order to be able to practice to the correct standards whilst in the UK.

Therefore, making sure your qualifications are transferred, translated, or topped-up, is essential for many career paths in the UK.

Below, we have outlined the official way to get your qualifications translated (a NARIC Statement of Compatibility), linked some guides on how school and degree level qualifications may translate, and provided advice on working in sectors that need specific assessments.

A Note on International Qualifications for Employers

If you are reading this as an employer thinking of recruiting refugees and wondering what qualifications to accept, we encourage you to have an open mind and be receptive to considering non-UK qualifications.

Check with your industry regulatory body about what qualifications would be acceptable for certifications, if needed, or that would be equivalent to the qualifications you would expect in the UK.

You can also point refugee applicants towards this article, or encourage them to complete a NARIC Statement of Compatibility.

NARIC Statement of Compatibility

The easiest way to transfer your qualifications to the UK and apply for jobs is to apply for a NARIC Statement of Compatibility. This is a national UK government-supported institution that evaluates your training and skills and produces an official report that employers can read (alongside a CV and cover letter) to understand what qualifications and skills you have.

You can apply online on the NARIC website here, and get your report within 2 weeks. A NARIC qualification currently costs £59.40.

A Statement of Compatibility will be extremely useful for many roles, but for some specific careers, especially those where you need a special certification to practice them, you may need to take part in extra training or assessments. You can read more on this below, including some examples for specific sectors.

Notes on Translating Qualifications

You may find other services offering to translate or compare your qualifications, but be wary of these.

NARIC is the only universally-accepted certification (as it is supported by the UK government) and any other translating services – or doing it yourself – may not be accurate and employers may not consider them.

That being said, it may be useful to have a general idea of how your school or degree qualifications would translate in the UK. We have included some information below and some useful links.

Use these as guidelines for working out what kind of roles you could be qualified for, then contact the recruiter. Explain your situation and ask what format they would like you to include your qualification in on your application. If you have a Statement of Compatibility, tell them you can add this to the application too.

Also, it is worth knowing that some large, international companies may provide information on what international qualifications they accept, or how to convert your qualifications for that application, on their website. Here is an example on the KPMG Careers website.

Translating International School-Level Qualifications

The Graduate Recruitment Bureau (GRB) has a useful guide which provides information on estimated equivalents for school-level grades in lots of countries, translated into A-Level qualifications. A-Level qualifications are taken by most UK students at the end of their school career, between ages 16 and 18.

Recruiters (or universities) may ask for your results in UCAS points equivalent. UCAS points are a system to show the total of all your grades so that universities can easily compare students. Use the second table on the GRB page (linked above) to work out your grade equivalents, and then the first table to work out your UCAS points

Translating International Degree (University) Qualifications

Most degree qualifications can usually be equated to UK qualifications. Again, the GRB has a guide on how to assess your qualifications.

If you have done any kind of university study in the UK (for example, a Master’s degree on top of a Bachelor’s degree that was taken in your home country), then contact your university’s admissions office to ask if they translated your undergraduate degree results when you applied, as this could also give an indication of their UK equivalency.

Translating International Career-Specific Qualifications

If you want to continue practising a specific career that you are already qualified for such as:

  • Law
  • Dentistry
  • Teaching
  • Construction
  • Nursing

 

You will need to be registered with the correct industry body and certified in the UK. For your industry, search for the industry body online and contact them to ask what international qualifications they accept and how you can translate your training to work in the UK.

For many industries, you will need to take a qualification examination or assessment to allow you to join the industry registry. For some, such as nursing, you may need to re-train completely. This changes from industry to industry, so getting in contact with your industry regulatory body is the easiest way to find out more.

As a guide, here are some examples of careers which need accreditation and specific qualifications, and what you have to do to practice them in the UK.

Law/Solicitor
To practice law as a solicitor in the UK, you will need to take a Solicitor’s Qualifying Examination (SQE) to certify in the UK, but you do not need to retrain. You can read more on the Law Society website.

Teaching
The UK government website provides information on how to gain Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) in the UK. For some, this will mean carrying out an accredited teacher training programme, or, if you already have a degree, you may only have to carry out an assessment to gain your QTS.

Dentistry
According to the British Dentistry Journal, if you are from outside the EU, you will usually have to sit the General Dentistry Council’s Overseas Registration Exam (ORE) and demonstrate your proficiency in English, too. This will allow you to qualify to be part of the GDC and then practice in the UK.

Construction
NARIC offers a Statement of Comparability for Construction which will help you apply for a CSCS card, which is needed to practice construction in the UK.

Who can help?

Translating your qualifications to work in the UK isn’t always easy, and can be expensive. It’s important to work with employers, be open and honest with them, and explain your situation.

Remember that larger employers may have experienced the same thing before and have more resources to help you translate, but smaller companies may have more flexibility to accept alternative qualifications and hire you based on other factors.

Consider contacting refugee employment charities, such as Sona Circle Recruitment, who can connect you with employers with more open and refugee-friendly recruitment practices. Some may also be able to directly assist you in translating your qualifications or provide financial support.

If you need more training on top of your qualifications before following a career path, consider taking part in Sona Circle Recruitment’s refugee internship scheme, which provides 3 month paid internships in exciting new startups to help boost your CVs.

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Refugees in Business and Entrepreneurship

Refugee Business EntrepreneurshipReading Time: 3 minutes

 

Refugee Business Entrepreneurship

 

by Katy Cottrell, Sona Circle

Historically, refugees have had great success in business and entrepreneurship around the world. From Michael Marks, a Jewish refugee who became the co-founder of Marks and Spencers in 1884, to Jan Koum who fled to the United States from Kiev and later became the co-founder and CEO of Whatsapp, refugees have used their hard work and a wide skill set to innovate and prosper in business.

Hamdi Ulkykaya, Chobani

A great example of this is Hamdi Ulkykaya who in 2005 founded the food company Chobani, which is the number one selling strained yoghurt in the United States. As of 2019, Ulkykaya was worth $2 billion and was named one of the most important entrepreneurs of the past decade by Inc. magazine.

However, prior to this success, Ulkykaya was forced to leave Turkey due to the oppression that the Kurdish minority group faced. Based on his own experiences as a refugee, Ulkykaya has demonstrated how to be successful in business whilst also protecting vulnerable people. In 2015, he announced that he would donate the majority of his wealth to help refugees around the world.

Additionally, within his own business, Ulkykaya ensures that a minimum of 30% of employees are immigrants or refugees. In order to hold other businesses to a similar standard, Ulkykaya set up the TENT foundation which encourages businesses to support refugees by hiring them and integrating refugee-led businesses into supply chains.

Mursal Hedayat, Chatterbox

Mursal and her success in the tech industry is another example of a former refugee thriving in business. Despite being forced to flee Afghanistan with her mother and sister early in life, Hedayat was named one of the Top Most Influential Leaders in Tech by the Financial Times and a Leading Innovator Under 35 by MIT.

This is thanks to her success in co-founding Chatterbox, an online language and cultural training programme which harnesses the skills and knowledge-base of refugees by employing them as teachers. So far over 6,000 Chatterbox classes have been taught since 2018, simultaneously helping learners develop their language ability and refugees build up their confidence and professional skills.

The Entrepreneurial Refugee Network (TERN)

In order to support refugees, so that they can replicate similar success in business to Hamdi Ulkykaya and Mursal Hedayat, the Entrepreneurial Refugee Network (TERN) provides assistance to refugee entrepreneurs in the creation and development of their businesses. TERN currently supports 210 refugee entrepreneurs and has alumni who have gone on to have great success in their field.

Fatma Albaiti, Meet Me at Fatma’s

For example, Fatma Albaiti is a TERN alumnus who set up Meet Me at Fatma’s, a London-based Yemeni pop-up brunch. These events have routinely sold out and been popular with Londoners for providing delicious food as well as educating people about Yemeni culture. TERN assists refugee-led businesses through mentoring, and providing access to resources and business networks.

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If you are able to, it’s great to support refugee-led businesses. There are many ways in which you can show your support for businesses that are founded by refugees. For example, you can broaden your culinary horizons by visiting different restaurants, or by exploring different cultures via refugee-led music and entertainment events (read more about it here).

Another essential way to show your support is by encouraging your organisation to employ refugees. In this way, you can help to create truly life-changing opportunities for refugees and support them with further integration in their adopted home country. If you’re wondering how to start these conversations at your office, get in touch as we’d love to help. Check out some tips here.

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5 Great Initiatives Supporting Refugee Integration in the UK

Refugee IntergrationReading Time: 3 minutes

 

 

by Katie McAdam, Sona Circle

Settling into a new country can be very daunting for many refugees. Language barriers, new cultures and lack of social connections make integration a difficult process. Integration is vital not only for improving local community relationships but also for reducing the problem of social isolation among refugees.

Those who are socially isolated experience a lower quality of life and have less access to services and employment. Various initiatives, from small community groups to international projects have emerged to foster the integration of refugees. Below are five great initiatives supporting refugee integration in the UK.

1. Migrant English Project

Overcoming language barriers is one of the most effective integration methods. Refugees with adequate language skills are more likely to access services, obtain employment and be able to form social connections.

Community language groups such as the Brighton based Migrant English Project, help refugees to practice their language with locals in an informal setting. By chatting with locals, refugees acquire not only the language but social connections within the community. The volunteer’s wealth of local knowledge is also helpful to advise refugees on legal, housing and health matters.

2. Integration of Refugees Through Sport (IRTS)

Integration can take a more activity-based approach and act as a fun way for refugees to connect with their communities over a common interest. Sports initiatives such as the European wide IRTS, have been particularly popular initiatives.

IRTS helps fund various local groups to run sports clubs which connect refugees and their communities through sports such as football and table tennis. These projects improve both refugees’ mental and physical wellbeing, as refugees can keep fit whilst making new friends.

Bonding over a shared interest also allows local people to find common ground with refugees and decreases the likelihood of stigmatisation towards refugees. When integration is based on having fun with others, it feels less clinical and more like community spirit.

3. Refugee Survival Trust’s Glasgow

Befriending schemes help refugees to build deeper connections with the community on an individual level. The Glasgow based Refugee Survival Trust’s Glasgow Welcome programme matches refugees with a partner whom they meet up with to explore cultural sites in the city.

Touring local sites allows refugees to learn about the city and feel more connected to their host community. As the programme occurs fortnightly over six months, this enables refugees to develop a closer relationship with their volunteer.

4. Culture Kitchen by Culture Connect

Food-based projects are a delicious way to bring people together and is something universally enjoyed. Newcastle based Culture Connect is a volunteer-run charity which regularly hosts the community lunch programme, Culture Kitchen.

Most of the volunteers are refugees and asylum seekers who find a great sense of purpose in cooking for their communities. The scheme gives refugees the opportunity to share their culture through good food. Additionally, the lunches provide refugees with a social space to chat with locals.

5. LINK IT

Ensuring that refugees have the skills and knowledge about their adopted communities early on in the process is vital for successful integration. UN-led LINK IT focuses on relocation of Syrian refugees to the EU. LINK IT fosters integration throughout a refugee’s relocation journey in offering both pre and post-arrival assistance.

The initiative’s pre-arrival orientation provides refugees with practical information so that they have realistic expectations of life in their host nation.

After arrival, employability focused information sessions help refugees’ transition into the local workforce. This support is twofold in the community with local services such as police forces, social work and health workers are given tailored information on how they can best support refugees.

The refugee experience does not end once they have received their status from their host country.

Refugees face a process of settling into and developing their lives in a new environment. Integration with local neighbours greatly improves a refugee’s wellbeing and prospects. In order to maximise refugee potential in our communities, we need to create beneficial conditions through adequate support.

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Germany’s Progressive Approach to Refugees and Asylum Seekers

Reading Time: 3 minutes

 

 

by David Cregan, Sona Circle

To understand Germany’s current policy on refugees and asylum seekers, you need to revisit the post Second World War period, 1945-1960. This 15 year period transformed a destroyed West Germany into its current economic powerhouse that we know today. There was a significant movement of refugees back to Germany from other parts of Europe at that time that of course, had to be resettled.

During this period it is estimated that there were 7 million refugees in Germany, many of which were resettled in countries around Europe, the Americas and Australia who were less affected by the war.

However, for the most part, these refugees (usually of German ethnicity) were granted full citizenship in Germany.

As East Germany took a differing route with a communist dictatorship, West Germany was taking a socially liberal route. From the 1960s, with a booming economy, and a shortage of skilled workers, companies made recruitment agreements that welcomed many new workers (Die Gästarbeiter – The guest workers).

These were economic migrants from Italy, Turkey, Spain, Portugal and Greece and although agreements were supposed to expire, the majority were allowed to stay and began integrating into German society.

Having direct experience of large numbers of refugees within its borders, and understanding the economic power of migrants, Germany was ideally placed to understand the situation unfolding between 2014 and 2016 as the flow of refugees from the Syrian conflict began.

During this time the number of new asylum applications rose from 173,072 in 2014 to 722,370 in 2016. Although this returned to 161,931 applications in 2018 it remains double the 10 year average of 78,000 today.

It is fair to say, Germany has been and still is a leader in accepting refugees and asylum seekers.

The integration of refugees in Germany has received a significant commitment politically, economically and socially to upskill and train over 1.4 million refugees into the fabric of Germany society. This has been a challenge due to the social and cultural differences between countries and also due to the high numbers of refugees carrying the emotional and physical scars of war.

After the initial surge between 2014 and 2016, the integration efforts are beginning to pay off as thousands of refugees are attending university and participating in the workforce in higher numbers than ever before. Since 2015 Germany has had very low unemployment rates (general unemployment rate of 5.2% as of May 2020), sustained economic growth and decreasing public welfare recipients according to Statista.

However, Germany does not hide the fact that unemployment and underemployment remain a massive drawback to social progress and integration. Several measures have helped in this area, for example, making work permit decisions faster and easier to understand; which was initially a big issue given the volume of applications which have gradually reduced in time.

Refugee skills were being assessed after a 2-3 year application process which led to training gaps and delays depending on which region the refugees were located. Standardisation of language skills between the Federal Office for Migration and Jobcentres has been improving but is still not perfectly aligned with the needs of both companies and refugees.

Many refugees have taken advantage of the vocational and apprenticeship programmes (Berufsausbildung) where they can be sponsored by a company in need of a specific skill. This has been especially effective at advancing employment opportunities against the challenge of differing educational and qualification standards, with a great deal of success in Berlin, Munich, Hamburg and Cologne where large numbers of refugees are searching for work.

What has been great to see is civil society playing a key role in helping an unprecedented number of refugees and asylum seekers to integrate into their community.

In 2016 alone it was reported that 11% of all Germans contributed either actively or through donations. This is a vital and frequently underestimated part of meeting the basic needs and social integration of new arrivals.

Also, a study from the OECD conducted in Germany found that almost 80% of participating employers who hired asylum seekers and refugees did so at least in part because of this sense of social responsibility.

With integration courses offering language and numerical skills as well as labour market functioning courses, integration has been for the most part successful, albeit a slow process.

At Sona Circle Recruitment, we connect socially conscious employers with the skilled and dependable refugee workforce in the UK.

Our refugee internship and employment programmes match qualified and committed members of the refugee workforce with exciting new start-ups and growth businesses.

You can learn more about our refugee employment programmes here. Alternatively, you can show your support by donating to the Sona Circle Refugee Employment Fund where 100% of donations go directly to supporting refugee employment in the UK.

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Refugees Impact on the Tech Industry

Reading Time: 3 minutes

 

by Katie McAdam, Sona Circle

In the 21st century, technology is present in all facets of our lives. The tech industry has become one of the most lucrative sectors in our economy and is home to some of the world’s most successful firms. From Silicon Valley to bedroom studios, refugees have and continue to play an important role in this influential sector.

Today, we take many of our advancements for granted, but we are indebted to the talent of its creators.

Indeed, the development of the Internet owes greatly to the efforts of pioneering refugees.

One of these innovations was the creation of the search engine, Google, which has become synonymous for the internet itself. Born from the experimentation of two Stanford students, the search engine Google revolutionised the way in which we access information.

After fleeing the former USSR due to anti-Semitism, Sergey Brin was part of the duo behind a wide range of tech projects from the translation service, Google Translate to the mapping service Google Earth. The company later became a part of the duo’s technology conglomerate, Alphabet which remains one of the most profitable companies on earth.

Refugee businesses have not only enhanced the economy, but helped to cause societal change.

Today’s tech visionaries follow on from the ambitions of their earlier counterparts. Indeed, the tech industry’s emphasis on employee welfare in the fun-loving workplaces like the Google HQ, with its free restaurants, slides and bowling alleys stem from its humble beginnings.

Early societal innovation included increased female empowerment within the industry thanks to refugees like Stephanie Shirley.

From an early age, Shirley showed great perseverance when she strived to create a new life in her adopted England after fleeing Nazi Germany to escape persecution. Frustrated at gender inequality within the tech industry, Shirley was inspired to create the majority female-led, Freelance Programmers in 1962.

Shirley was a trailblazer in creating reemployment in a male dominated field at a time when marriage and childbirth signaled the end of a women’s career.

The company had a unique workplace culture adopting progressive practices such as home working, profit-sharing and job-sharing. These practices in the tech industry pioneered by Shirley would be adopted by a wider business culture, creating a more equal and convenient workplaces

The wider spread of refugee efforts in the tech industry is clear in their influence on the public domain.

The valuable research committed by refugee entrepreneurs has been used to inform others, particularly in academia about various technological concerns.

One of these figures is Hungarian refugee, Andrew Grove, who found success in helping to start up microchip firm, Intel, following his settlement in America after the Hungarian Revolution.

Whilst at Intel, Grove also wrote numerous publications on business management, physics and computing with a particular research interest in semiconductors, an important part of many electrical devices. His research particularly on the ‘Objectives and Key Results’ model of business management model has influenced subsequent tech entrepreneurs including the billionaire investor John Doerr.

In an increasingly technological world, the work of refugees continues to shape our lives.

Refugees have made important contributions to the management, innovation and impact of the tech industry. Additionally, these refugee tech giants have inspired the next generation to create a better world. The next Sergey Brin’s are already behind their computer screens developing innovative technology to solve our future problems.

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Are Refugees and Asylum Seekers’ Allowed to Work in the UK?

Reading Time: 3 minutes

 

 

by Katy Cottrell, Sona Circle

The terms ‘refugee’ and ‘asylum seeker’ are often confused by many people and have incorrectly been used interchangeably.

Though to many people, these terms may seem like they mean the same thing, there are important distinctions between refugees and asylum seekers which have implications for their legal right to work.

To clarify any misconceptions, we have created this quick guide to explain who can and cannot legally work in the UK.

Firstly, what is the difference between a refugee and an asylum seeker?

Asylum seekers are those who have fled their home country as a result of war, persecution or any other factors harming themselves or their family, however are still seeking international protection.

If an asylum seekers’ claim is accepted by their host country, they are then classified as a refugee which provides them with the rights agreed upon in the 1951 refugee convention.

Do refugees have the right to work in the UK?

The short answer to this is yes, absolutely.

Legally, refugees are allowed to work in any profession and at any skill level, and they are also protected against workplace discrimination in the UK.

Are asylum seekers allowed to work in the UK?

Unlike refugees, those who are still seeking asylum are, for the most part, not legally allowed to work in the UK.

However, there are some exceptions.

For example, asylum seekers can apply for permission to work if they have waited for over 1 year for a decision on their asylum claim, and they themselves are not responsible for the delay in decision making.

This however, is still restricted, and asylum seekers who have been given permission to work for these reasons can only apply for jobs on the UK’s Official Shortage Occupation List.

Are asylum seekers allowed to do apprenticeships in the UK?

In general most asylum seekers are not allowed to start apprenticeships in the UK, though there are some exceptions.

Those who have lived in the UK for 6 months or longer with no decision being made on their claim, and those who are under the care of children’s services may be able to start an apprenticeship.

If asylum seekers cannot work, what can they do with their skills and time?

Although asylum seekers are not legally allowed to work, in 2013 the Home Office updated their guidance, stating that asylum seekers are allowed to volunteer regardless of the status of their claim.

Asylum Seekers can contribute and develop their skills by volunteering in both the public and non-profit sectors.

Is anything being done to give asylum seekers the right to work?

Asylum seekers inability to work in the UK has become a topic of debate thanks to Refugee Action’s Lift the Ban Campaign, which aims to give asylum seekers the right to work.

This campaign is rooted in the fact that asylum seekers are given just £5.39 per day to purchase food, sanitary products, and clothing from the UK government.

What Refugee Action has found through their campaign is that asylum seekers want to contribute to their host country and provide for themselves and their families rather than relying on the government.

If you’re interested in this campaign, you can find Refugee Action’s petition here. For more information about hiring refugees and asylum seekers in the UK, visit our website www.sonacircle.com where you can also get in contact with us.

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Refugees in Entertainment

Statue of refugee, Freddie Mercury in SwitzerlandReading Time: 3 minutes

 

 

Katie McAdam, Sona Circle

In 1969 Farrokh Bulsara fled Zanzibar, (modern-day Tanzania) due to the ensuing genocide of Arab and South Asian minorities. With a great songwriting talent and an impressive vocal range, he dreamed of stardom. After joining the band Queen, he changed his name and then changed the history of rock music.

The newly named Freddie Mercury and his band, would go onto produce an era defining sound and some of the greatest rock albums of all time. Freddy Mercury’s musical success and brilliant stage presence made him a global superstar. His musical legacy has influenced subsequent generations of musicians from Lady Gaga to Nirvana. Mercury continues to exert a huge cultural significance in the UK and was named one of the Greatest Britons by the BBC.

Talented individuals like Freddie Mercury stand to show the cultural impact refugees can have within the entertainment industry of their adopted country. Stories like Freddy Mercury’s are rippled throughout the entertainment industry. With their talent and perseverance, refugees have made many successful careers in the industry, spreading joy to many.

Indeed, the entertainment industry has hosted some of the most celebrated and influential refugees today.

Entertainment is something that can be universally enjoyed. However, often the perspectives we showcase are by a limited few. Refugees can offer a unique perspective which enriches and diversifies our culture. Entertainment is a valuable tool in informing the public, with artists often using their work as a platform to explore issues related to the refugee experience.

This has been particularly clear in the comedy industry; with comedians such as Shappi Khorsandi, humanising the refugee narrative in confronting it with humour and light. Khorsandi came to the UK as a child during the Iranian Revolution as her father’s satirical work put her family’s safety in danger.

She has found a source of comedy in British life, identity conflict and discrimination showing that life as a refugee is not simply defined by tragedy and loss. Her creative talent has also been channeled into her novels ‘Nina is Not OK’ and the soon to be released, ‘Kissing Emma’ as well as her memoir ‘A Beginner’s Guide to Acting English’.

Work within the entertainment industry has allowed comedians like Khorsandi to shift perspectives and challenge misconceptions about refugees in an entertaining way. Refugees are able to further influence the public by using their voice to focus attention on issues they value. The success and public image of refugees in the industry has been used by many to enhance philanthropic efforts.

Chart topping singer Rita Ora, has used her prominence in the industry to act as a well-known activist. In 1991, following the outbreak of the Yugoslav wars, Ora’s Albanian heritage meant she risked persecution by Yugoslav forces. Her family managed to escape her home town, Pristina, on one of the last planes out of Kosovo and settled in London. Showing great musical ability from a young age, Ora gained a place at the prestigious Sylvia Young Theatre School. This kick-started her career in the industry and she has since been nominated for five BRIT awards and seven MOBO awards.

Ora is greatly revered in her native Kosovo and in 2015 was awarded the title of Honorary Ambassador of Kosovo for her work. She is a real role model for many refugees, and acts as UNICEF Ambassador working on various projects concerning refugee rights such as her campaign on the Syrian refugee crisis.

These stories are just some of the many successes of refugees within the entertainment industry. Refugees have and will continue to prosper, achieve and innovate in the field inspiring the next generation of budding artists. Their talents and unique perspectives are vital in shaping the future of a demanding and often elitist profession. The dreams of today’s refugees will go on to produce the legends of tomorrow.

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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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Race Discrimination in the Workplace

Reading Time: 3 minutes

 

By Katy Cottrell, Sona Circle

Why NOW is the time to act

Last week George Floyd became another victim of police brutality towards unarmed black people, when he was killed at the scene of his arrest for an alleged forged cheque. This violent and tragic event has understandably caused widespread heartbreak and anger, and sparked protests in certain US states, but it has also created a conversation about race inequalities and what all of us can do to combat racism.

Discourse around George Floyd’s death has highlighted that modern-day racism is not just isolated to police brutality and overt violent forms of abuse. In fact, subtle, more ‘socially accepted’ forms of racism (such as claiming to be ‘colourblind’ and refusing to directly address issues of race) create a culture in which people of colour are more likely to become victims of race-based violence. It is also important to note that this is not just an American problem.

The British Actor Daniel Kaluuya explains:

‘Racism’s not [always] seen in England, but it’s felt. And it’s oppressive’.

Thus, recent events have made clear that we do not live in an equal society. The everyday experiences of people of colour and white people are very different, which is defined by the term White Privilege. This term does not try to suggest that white people will not have struggles in their life, rather that the struggles they do face will not be because of their race.

Examples of white privilege include:

  • Believing that police and state authorities are there to protect you.
  • Seeing yourself represented by people who look like you in TV, film and other forms of media.
  • Knowing that your race and ethnicity will not affect how likely you are to be chosen for a job.

This final point is particularly relevant to our focus at Sona Circle Recruitment, which is connecting socially conscious employers in the UK, with the dependable refugee workforce.

Research has shown that racial discrimination is rife throughout UK workplaces, with people of colour being hired less often despite being well qualified. For example, prior to Covid-19 a study by The Resolution Foundation found that ethnic minorities with graduate degrees were 12% less likely to be employed than white graduates.

This demonstrates the systematic racism in play through many businesses reluctance to employ people of colour.

Unfortunately, work-place discrimination is likely to further affect refugees. Not only do refugees often face racial stereotyping but also stigmas associated with the refugee status. For example, the unemployment rate for refugee populations is as high as 18% (three times as high as the British population). When refugees are able to find employment, many are working in positions that they are overqualified for, because their qualifications and experience overseas are not recognised by UK employers.

The death of George Floyd has opened up conversations about racial bias, inequalities and white privilege that are pervasive in our culture.

At Sona Circle Recruitment, we are aiming to bring awareness to the ways in which refugees are affected by this bias, by shedding light on refugee experiences and often unrecognised contributions that they make to our society. We strive to promote workplace equality by creating job opportunities for refugees and helping those in need to access social support.

If you are a socially conscious employer and you’re interested in hiring the dependable refugee workforce, you can email us at info@sonacircle.com, alternatively, you can contribute 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, via our Just Giving page.

https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/sonacircle