Katharina Cavano l Palladium - Aug 18 2023
Ukrainian Refugees in the UK are Learning English to Find Work

Refugee Week celebrations included lessons in traditional Ukrainian dances through the office. 

The UK has welcomed more than 200,000 Ukrainian refugees since the Russian invasion. While the influx of migrants offers opportunities across the board, those resettling in the UK and the communities welcoming them in also need extensive support. A critical part of that support is the UK’s ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) courses.

The courses, which offer beginner to advanced classes in English, often with flexible class times and some even with childcare, are a free and essential aspect of assimilation for many migrants and refugees. And in Southampton, Eastley, and Winchester, Palladium’s Restart team ran several sessions of 6-week ESOL courses specifically focused on employment skills.

“We partnered with Itchen College and ran the 6-week ESOL courses out of three of our offices,” explains Beverley Neville, Business Manager of Restart. “The courses were 16 hours a week and in order to complete, students had to either complete 96 hours total, or move into a job during or at the end of the course, and we had over a 92% completion rate.”

The Restart scheme is the Department for Work and Pensions’ flagship program to help long-term unemployed people back to work, making it the perfect place to host the courses. Neville says that the teams welcomed the refugees with open arms. “They brought such an energy to the offices, and integrated so well, they would walk in and say hello to everyone and felt very comfortable being there.”

The course that the Restart team offered was meant to be a follow-on from the more traditional ESOL courses. “We were making sure they knew how to get the right-to-work documents, prepping them for interviews, how to put a CV together or register for a doctor, and all the things they would need to do to get the right documents in order to get a job,” Neville explains. “Many of the students were highly qualified as lawyers or doctors but the vast majority wanted to work so much that they were willing to take lower qualification roles just to get in the door.”

Two sisters enrolled on one of the courses were looking to put their master’s degrees in dentistry to use, but only looking for part time work. The Employer Solutions team came up with a creative solution. “We knew of a dentist with an open and full-time dental nurse role, but because the two sister's we were supporting only wanted to work part time, we liaised with the Dentist, which resulted in them both being give a job to share,” shares Neville proudly. “They begin this month.”

And while not everyone found a job at the end of the course, Neville hopes that the DWP will refer some of the students to the Restart Scheme so that the team can continue to work with them. “The engagement of the vast majority of the people on the courses was so great, even when you could see the difficulties they were going through.”

During Refugee Week in June, the offices hosted celebrations for the students, many of whom brought in Ukrainian food, dressed in traditional clothes, and even taught the staff traditional dances. “Some were hesitant because they didn’t want to focus on the fact that they were refugees, but we stressed that this was about celebrating them as individuals and Ukrainians first,” adds Neville.

“I’m really going to miss them,” she admits. “We hope that the vast majority find work and that we can support some of them further through the Restart scheme, but it was so clear that they were keen to get out there to support themselves and really be part of the local community.”

As the war in Ukraine continues and more refugees resettle around the world, courses like the one Restart led will be critical in ensuring that migrants are not only welcomed into local communities, but able to find decent and sustainable work.

For more information, read 'Palladium Wins UK Refugee Employability Programme' or contact info@thepalladiumgroup.com.