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Peer advisers help refugees find their way to the job market

Refugees can often be highly qualified professionals, yet they frequently struggle to find a job in their host country. By tackling the issues that are holding them back, giving them additional training in a personal way and in their own language, the Birmingham City Council has successfully helped 600 refugees to move towards employment.

Project duration

June 2010-present day


United Kingdom

Issue: Helping refugees to overcome causes of unemployment

The reason that many refugees are struggling to find work in their host country rarely has to do with their qualifications. Because they are displaced, refugees have a hard time finding their way to the job market without professional help. Nevertheless, they are often reluctant to contact public agencies. Partially because they distrust them, because of their background, and often because of language barriers. The solution offered by the employment advice service for refugees of the Birmingham City Council is offering intermediaries with whom the refugees can communicate in their own language to master the skills and language to participate on the job market.

Objectives: Prepare refugees for the job market in their native language

At its start, 3 objectives were formulated for the project:

  • To help refugees to get appropriate training and employment (with a target of helping  600 refugees);
  • To increase the number of (voluntary) advice workers providing advice on job opportunities, in their native language, to people from displaced communities.
  • To develop the capacity of Refugee Community Organisations (RCOs) to host and deliver information, advice and guidance services.
Approach: Spreading the word to find volunteers and target groups

New communities in the area and organisations that might represent them were identified by advertising the project via email and placing it on a bulletin board. Posters were translated into different languages and refugee community groups organized events to spread the word. In this fashion, advise workers were recruited, who could later activate their own network to identify people who might benefit from the service.

Results: 600 refugees have been helped towards work

Since the project’s start in June 2010, over 600 refugees have been helped to make their steps towards the job market. The main focus was improving their skills before getting them back to work. The most popular fields of training were care services, education, manual labour, administrative work and self-employment. Apart from offering specific courses in these fields, an important part of the training consisted of English as a Second or Other Language classes, for those who needed it.

Lessons learnt:target communities were not difficult to reach

Working with refugee community organisations can be challenging, since the City Council really had to win their trust. It proved very valuable however. Reaching refugees in their mother tongue via these organisations helped connection with the target group. Though most of the refugees are quite capable of speaking English, expressing their ambitions and worries in a familiar language helped them to open up. The City Council found furthermore that, in spite of what one might expect, the target communities were not difficult to reach. Still, they state that it is crucial to recognise that the way that refugee community organisations work can vary from what the City Council is used to. Being open in dialogue and flexible in scheduling meetings, since most contacts have a fulltime job, is very important.

Contact details

Contact person: Rabiyah Latif
Telephone: 0044 7795 611 710

23 Feb 2012

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