Government strategy to get refugees into work

The Government has carried out the first ever audit of refugee skills and is
about to publish a specific employment strategy to help refugees fill skills
shortages.

The initiatives represent a major success for Personnel Today’s Refugees in
Employment campaign, which has been calling for the Government to develop a
strategy to co-ordinate the employment of refugees and create a skills
database.

The Home Office skills audit group has just completed a pilot project which,
for the first time, asked refugees to provide details of their qualifications,
skills and experience by filling in a questionnaire sent with their ‘permission
to stay’ documents.

It is now considering how this information can be used and how refugees, who
are already helping to fill skills shortages in areas including the NHS, local
government, catering and construction, can have their skills formally
recognised in the UK.

The Department for Work and Pensions is also due to release research next
month highlighting the obstacles refugees face in finding work and on the back
of this will publish its first employment strategy for refugees.

Sharon Warre-Dymond, HR director at pharmaceutical company Pfizer, believes
the plans to provide employers with more information about refugees’ skills and
experience will prove increasingly valuable.

"I think because of demographic trends we are going to experience an
increasing shortage of skills. This will help widen the net in helping employers
recruit capable people," she said.

The HR director at windows firm Everest, Bill Freshwater, also welcomed the
moves. He said there is currently little support to help employers find
refugees with suitable specific skills.

The CIPD’s international manager Frances Wilson, said the move to recognise
refugee skills will help employers fill skills shortages in the future.

"There are still skills shortages in some areas – in nursing and
teaching, for example – and this will help employers match refugees with
comparable skills to the skills gaps."

By Ben Willmott

Case study: Whipps Cross University Hospital
Refugee nurses to help fill skills gap

Whipps Cross University Hospital is taking part in a scheme to tackle
nursing shortages by making use of vital skills possessed by refugee nurses in
the area.

The scheme, being run in conjunction with the Refugee Health Professionals
Project, aims to bring refugee nurses living in Redbridge and Waltham Forest
back into the nursing profession at their local hospital.

Whipps Cross is to run supervised practice placement schemes specifically
for refugees. The courses are designed to enable nurses trained overseas to
qualify to work in the UK.

The hospital’s HR director Jenny Southam said that in many cases, highly
qualified and experienced nurses are currently having their knowledge and
skills go to waste simply because they do not have access to this sort of
training.

"With the help of the Refugee Health Professionals Project we will be
able to put to great use the skills of our fellow nurses who have come to the
area from overseas," she said.

Southam believes employing refugee nurses will also help the hospital care
for patients from refugee communities.

The first places will be available from January 2003, with further places
coming up over the next two years.

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