Refugees targeted to bridge skills gap

The Government has launched a pilot project to assess the skills of refugees
in a bid to bridge the UK’s skills gap.

Announced by minister for work Des Browne at ‘Working to Rebuild Lives’, a
conference held by the Employability Forum to help develop the Government’s
strategy for refugee employment, a new pilot scheme will offer ‘early intensive
support’ for refugee jobseekers.

Skilled practitioners will determine the skills of refugees, detail what
work might be open to them and explain how the UK labour market works.

"We need to help refugees at an early stage while they are motivated to
make a new start," Browne said. "They have skills and talents we need
and there are big potential wins for everyone."

However, the project, being tested at Haringey Refugee Centre, is still a
far cry from promises made by the Government to Personnel Today about the
creation of a skills database to ensure highly qualified refugees are properly
employed.

In January 2002, the then immigration and citizenship minister, Lord Rooker,
responded to Personnel Today’s Refugees In Employment campaign, saying the
government would create the database to play a key role in identifying highly
qualified people seeking asylum in the UK. Presently, however, more than one in
three refugees are unemployed.

Also speaking at the conference, Jennifer Hurstfield, principal research
fellow at the Institute of Employment Studies, said employing refugees was
still too complex and the system of checking employment eligibility had to be
streamlined.

By Michael Millar

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