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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, 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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7 Tips to Creating Refugee-Friendly Recruitment Practises

Reading Time: 3 minutes



By Zoe Allen, Sona Circle

A diverse and inclusive workplace is an asset to any business. If you have read our previous blog post on the key benefits of hiring refugees, and are now ready to integrate refugees into your workplace, congratulations on making a great business (and humanitarian) decision!

Here are our top tips for making your recruitment practices refugee-friendly.

1. Review your language requirements

Refugees may still be developing their English language skills, and therefore job descriptions specifying a high level of English may be off-putting. Of course, some jobs, such as some content writing roles, will require a thorough knowledge of the English language, but many roles will not.

Have a second think through your role requirements to see what level of language skills is absolutely necessary.

In addition, consider whether key instructions and documents could be translated to different languages to accommodate refugee candidates and employees.

To make your roles even more accessible to refugees, you can embed English language training into your workplace. Currently, refugees can access funding for English tuition whilst unemployed and looking for a job, why not support their development by continuing this training in the workplace.

2. Support refugees to transfer qualifications

Many refugees have prior qualifications, attended university, or were previously employed in skilled employment; however the majority end up working in manual or unskilled labour in the UK.

It is important for employers to be open to helping refugees prove and verify their qualifications, by working with regulatory and industry bodies, or by consulting the NARIC (National Academic Recognition Information Centre).

This will allow refugees to access employment that fits their skills and interests which will be both much more rewarding for refugees and also enable employers to benefits from the full knowledge and talents of their employees.

3. Support employee’s mental health

The long hours and demands on employees in the workplace can be stressful for us all. More employers across the country are coming to realise the importance of supporting their employee’s mental health.

This requirement is even more critical when working with refugees who have often had to overcome traumatic experiences before arriving at their host countries.

Making sure your workplace prioritises the mental health of employees, such as by allowing mental health sick days and creating a supportive and open environment around mental health, will help refugees (and other employees!) feel much more comfortable and also perform better.

4. Offer internships and apprenticeships

Internships and apprenticeships, which provide on-the-job-training, can help refugees ease more gradually into the UK workplace, gain new skills, improve existing ones, learn about the workplace culture and also gain confidence.

As with job applications, try to ensure that entry requirements for internships and apprenticeships are accessible to refugees, for example by reviewing the language requirements.

More information and support on refugee internship and apprenticeship programmes can be found on the Sona Circle website.

5. Publicise inclusivity in your workplace

Being a socially conscious and inclusive organisation is something to be very proud of. Be sure to let the world know that your practises are aligned with your values. Your actions could inspire others to follow suit. As a thought leader in the marketplace, this is your responsibility.

Make it clear on your website, social media and PR campaigns and also on job adverts, that you are a refugee-friendly, diverse and inclusive employer.

Share the steps you are taking to make your workplace inclusive, such as by making space for religious holidays or setting up a Cultural Awareness Network.

6. Combat unconscious bias by educating employees

To make your workplace even more inclusive, be sure you are promoting inclusion and diversity at all levels.

This can include delivering unconscious bias training to all employees, rather than just for the hiring managers. Engage senior management in the refugee hiring programme, and offer training to supervisors to help them support their refugee hires.

This will all lead to the creation of a positive, diverse workplace environment, not only for refugees, but for all employees.

7. Find a partner to help you recruit refugee candidates

Get in touch with the friendly and supportive team at Sona Circle Recruitment to help you access refugee talent for your business and for advice with your recruitment process.

At Sona Circle Recruitment, we offer refugee employment and internship programmes for employers to recruit talented and committed employees.

We simplify the process by selecting a pool of great candidates who fit your requirements, before you interview the candidates and make your selection.

If you aren’t hiring right now, you can show your support by donating to the Sona Circle Refugee Employment Campaign. Sona Circle is a non-profit social enterprise and 100% of donations go directly to helping create employment opportunities for refugees.

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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, 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.


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Business Because

Reading Time: 2 minutes


Social Enterprise: Aston MBA’s New App Helps Refugees Find Jobs

According to UN figures, there are 65 million people in the world now officially registered as refugees, living in temporary camps awaiting resettlement. 4.9 million are from Syria.

Only 134,000 refugees were resettled in 2015. Millions more live in informal settlements or slums, or are in transition from one location to another. Most are isolated and jobless.

Onaseye Onabolu, an MBA student at the UK’s Aston Business School, has just launched a new app which will allow the world’s refugees to develop professional networks and connect with local employers.

Like a LinkedIn for displaced persons, Sona Circle lets users build professional profiles, share their skills and professional backgrounds, network with organizations, and apply for jobs. The free-to-download Apple iOS app is designed to tackle issues around labor force participation and social integration.

“We want to restore the rights and dignity of five million refugees by 2022,” says Onaseye, who runs the social enterprise with his co-founder and ex-Apple software designer Archi Troko.

“The mission of Sona Circle is to formalize an informal ecosystem; to empower refugees to share their skills and talents and build a better future for themselves and their families,” he continues. “We aim to help connect refugees with employers, government agencies, aid organizations, and, most importantly, each other.”

The journey towards Sona Circle began when Onaseye and his three team-mates – Michael McKay, Dr. Raja Pappu, and Tamara Waltho – were selected out of over 50,000 candidates and 12,500 teams to compete at the annual international Hult Prize regional finals in London. The focus of the competition: to build social enterprises to combat the global refugee crisis.

Through his MBA experience at Aston, Onaseye had the opportunity to present his idea at an MBA mentor dinner held at Aston Villa soccer club. His team also won the 2017 Aston Uni Hack competition and were finalists at Aston Enterprise and Santander Business Start-Up competition.

When Onaseye – a serial entrepreneur and CIMA-qualified management accountant – last spoke to BusinessBecause, he was looking to develop his own Africa-focused investment consultancy, and drive impact investing in Africa.

Onaseye will graduate with an MBA from Aston later this year. He’s now looking for funding for Sona Circle. With his latest social enterprise project, he hopes to start out in Europe and grow internationally over the next five years.

“Aston Business School has been particularly good at encouraging MBA candidates to take part in various startup competitions such as Aston Uni Hack, Aston Enterprise, and the Goldman Sachs 10,000 small business initiative,” says Onaseye.

“Suffice to say, we are not short of advisors, mentors and partners. Even a couple of venture capital firms have shown a keen interest in supporting the project,” he continues.

“Without the support from Aston’s entrepreneurship, marketing, and finance departments, as well as from members of the MBA cohort itself, none of this would have been possible.”

You can read the article here