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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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A Guide to Apprenticeships for Refugees and Asylum Seekers

Workplace ApprenticeshipReading Time: 3 minutes

 

 

By Zoe Allen, Sona Circle

What are apprenticeships?

Apprenticeships are training programmes designed to prepare you for a career in a particular trade or profession. Importantly, they include practical, on-the-job training, and you are paid whilst you complete your apprenticeship.

Apprentices also have to spend at least 20% of their time (i.e. usually one day a week) completing more academic training for their profession, usually in a classroom setting, and often at a local college or university.

Apprenticeships vary in length between 1 and 6 years, depending on the profession you are training in.

Can I do an apprenticeship as a refugee or whilst an asylum seeker?

In the UK, refugees (those granted settled refugee status) have open access to the job market and so can legally take part in any apprenticeship. However, the rules are a little different for people seeking asylum (who have not had their claim accepted).

If you have been in the UK for 6 months without your asylum claim receiving a response, you are eligible to apply for and start an apprenticeship. This is also the case if you have appealed against a rejection of your application and, after 6 months, you still have not received a reply to your repeal.

This is different from other forms of paid work; if you want to take up any other form of work, you have to wait for 12 months without a response before you can apply for a permit.

If you are seeking asylum and thinking of applying for an apprenticeship, you should discuss this with your case handler.

What are the benefits of doing an apprenticeship as a refugee or an asylum seeker?

Apprenticeships teach you tangible, hands-on skills that are designed to make you job-ready as soon as you leave the programme. This means that you are more likely to be able to secure a steady income quickly and easily.

If you have not had a job before, or do not have experience with skilled work, then hands-on training that allows you to earn while you learn might be perfect for you.

If you are still developing your English skills, it might suit you better to complete a training course with less written work and reading, and more practical work. Working as an apprentice is also likely to include one-on-one or small group training, which is ideal to help you improve your spoken English skills and form social connections in the UK.

As above, a big benefit is that if you are seeking asylum you can start an apprenticeship (and start earning an income) 6 months earlier than you can apply to start any other form of paid work.

Where can I find apprenticeships?

At Sona Circle Recruitment we have partnered with apprenticeship provider WhiteHat to advertise apprenticeships to refugees on our website. You can take a look at the apprenticeships currently available here.

There are also many other ways you can find apprenticeships that work for you or operate in your area. You can visit the website of your local college, university or training centre to see if they partner with local companies to offer apprenticeship training.

There are also a lot of searchable apprenticeship boards online, such as the government’s dedicated site, apprenticeships.gov.uk or on the UCAS website. If there is a particular company you are interested in working with, you can contact them directly to see if they offer an apprenticeship programme.

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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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5 Key Benefits to Hiring Refugees

Reading Time: 3 minutes

 

 

By Zoe Allen, Sona Circle

Hiring refugees in your small business or start-up has a whole host of benefits that simply don’t get enough attention. Without a wide range of skills and talent, a business runs the risk of stagnating. Hiring refugee interns to access a highly motivated and diverse talent pipeline is the ideal way to combat this.

What’s more, refugees consistently face barriers to employment in the UK, so hiring refugees allows you to help others whilst still growing your business. It’s a win-win situation for all involved!

Below are five key benefits to hiring refugees that every SME and start-up should know about:

1. Diversify your workforce

Your business can directly benefit from ethnic and cultural diversity. Research by McKinsey & Company found that teams that are more culturally and ethnically diverse are 33% more likely to be more profitable than their less-diverse competitors.

Refugees are not a homogenous group, and come from a wide range of backgrounds, so taking on refugee interns or staff can hugely increase the diversity of your business. Drawing from this wide range of candidates from all over the world can greatly help diversify thinking and skillsets within your business, leading to vastly improved innovation and growth.

2. Access skilled and qualified candidates

Refugees are often highly skilled and experienced. Research from the Nuffield Foundation found that nearly half of the refugees surveyed held a qualification before coming to the UK, and Deloitte found that 38% of refugees surveyed had a University education. Refugees have a wide range of talents and professional skills, and due to their experiences have often developed enormous resilience and adaptability.

In addition, refugees are likely to be proficient in a number of languages other than English, which can be another asset to businesses growing into international markets.

3. Increase employee communication and empathy

Encouraging employees to interact with refugees from different cultural and ethnic backgrounds will develop soft skills such as effective communication, empathy and teamwork.

We suggest using ‘buddy’ schemes to support refugee hires, to help employees develop these skills with the intern they are supporting. This interaction will encourage innovative and new thinking throughout the whole team, facilitated by the inclusion of the new refugee intern or employee.

4. Keep roles filled by ideal candidates

73% of employers surveyed in the US found that refugees had higher retention rates than other employees, so hiring refugees will allow you to keep this great new talent for longer which significantly reduces recruitment and training costs and encourages uninterrupted business continuity.

Sona Circle Recruitment’s refugee internship programme can help your business recruit a targeted talent pipeline, which can be developed into a dedicated and committed long-term workforce.

5. Decrease unconscious employee bias

Creating opportunities for your employees to work alongside a diverse refugee workforce will both enable employees to develop new skills and ideas, while also reducing staff’s unconscious bias.

This will increase workplace cohesion and integration, boost staff morale and improve teamwork. You’ll create a diverse and committed team, which recognises the importance of a fair and socially progressive workplace.

So how can Sona Circle Recruitment help you?

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. You can learn more about our refugee employment programmes here.

Our mission in 2020 is to create up to 100 new employment opportunities for refugees in the UK and we now need your support to achieve this ambitious target.

You can 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.