A consortium of UK businesses has launched an initiative to make it easier to offer employment to Ukrainian refugees.
More than 45 companies, including M&S, Asos, Lush and recruiter Robert Walters have joined the initiative, led by entrepreneur Emma Sinclair.
Sinclair is chief executive of Enterprise Alumni, a software platform that enables organisations to connect with former employees and potentially build up their talent pools.
She told the BBC that she hopes the project could help “tens of thousands” of refugees to find work and accommodation, particularly given the fact many sectors in the UK are currently experiencing skills shortages.
She will meet with the new minister for refugees Richard Harrington today (14 March) to discuss how the government can support the initiative. Sinclair said the UK could “do better” and “go faster” in its support of Ukrainian refugees.
So far more than 2.5 million refugees have left Ukraine since it was invaded by Russian troops last month.
A new scheme, Homes for Ukraine, will be formally launched this week where hosts can take in refugees and receive £350 a month to support their upkeep. Health secretary Sajid Javid said there would be no cap on the number of refugees UK homes could support.
They will have access to the NHS and other public services, and their children will be able to attend local schools – councils will receive £10,500 in extra funding per refugee.
Javid said more than 3,000 visas have already been granted to Ukrainians with immediate and extended family in the UK.
Asos said it was keen to recruit tech engineers via the new jobs initiative. “We know Ukraine has a strong skill set in this area. We are also working with our partners to explore opportunities at our distribution centres in the UK and elsewhere in Europe.”
Stephen Edwards, chief marketing officer at Robert Walters, said the company was waiting for confirmation from the Home Office on visas and right to work requirements, but was “delighted” to be part of the effort.
“Robert Walters Group has offered help both in terms of hiring a number of displaced Ukrainians into our own business but also as a recruitment company we are able to represent them as potential employees for our clients.
“Emma Sinclair has pulled together a significant number of businesses across all sectors who are willing to offer help in different ways according to the services they provide and we are delighted to be a part of that effort.”
A jobs board, JobForUkraine.net, was launched last week by Valeriia Voshchevska, a Ukrainian living in London. There are more than 1,700 posts available in academic, scientific and arts-based fields.