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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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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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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.