Webinar Recap: Ukraine Business Consortiumby Alumni Content in Alumni Leaders Podcast, Video | Last Edited: 23rd June 2022
Thank you to our guest speakers: Joumanna Bercetche, CNBC Anchor; Anna Jones, co-founder and CEO at RefuAid; Sarah Roberts, Head of Talent at Mulberry; Edmund King OBE, President at The AA; and Emma Sinclair MBE, CEO at EnterpriseAlumni.
Five Things We Learned About the Ukraine Business Consortium
Refugees aren’t able to put their skills to use …
“Highly qualified refugees who arrive from Ukraine are unable to certify to practise in the UK, and so may rush into any job, just to earn money …”
People can end up being exploited …
“We hear time and time again how people who go into informal employment end up getting exploited. Once that has happened, it’s incredibly hard for organisations to come in and help …”
Reaccreditation is expensive …
“Reaccreditation to practise in the UK is expensive, for example £6,000 for a doctor or lorry driver, or £10,000 for a pharmacist or lawyer …”
Speaking English inspires confidence …
“We have roles where a professional level of English isn’t required, but it’s also about making sure that the individuals feel comfortable and confident in an environment where they can thrive and succeed …”
Public transport doesn’t suit everybody …
“Many refugees who come into the UK are going to live in households in rural areas with no public transport. But driving in Ukraine is very different to driving in the UK …”
Edmund King OBE
Curated by Joumanna Bercetche, CNBC anchor
Why did you decided to put together the UK Ukraine business consortium?
Emma Sinclair: I’m part of a wonderful initiative called Refugees at Home, which helps put up refugees all over the UK. So I decided to gather a list of leaders who could help identify 10,000 jobs that employees could make available. When we announced it on the front page of the Sunday Times in March, we had 25 companies keen to be involved. By that evening, it had increased to 45. By the next day, it was 65.
Highly qualified refugees arrive from Ukraine, but are unable to certify to practise as lawyers, engineers, professors or teachers, so many just rush into any old job, just to earn a living. So initially this was effectively a bit of a pressure group. The Minister of Refugees, Lord Richard Harrington, was kind enough to make time for me, but I sensed things weren’t going to happen particularly quickly. Plus my father’s family are from the Ukraine. So finding RefuAid was a blessing.
How are RefuAid helping?
Anna Jones: We support professional people who have fled their homes and need to reaccredit their qualifications when they arrive in the UK. We hear time and time again how refugees who go into informal employment end up getting exploited, and once that has happened, it’s incredibly hard for organisations to come in and help.
We look at how can we get these refuges to the point where they can gainfully find employment using their professional skills.
Often, language is the first barrier, so we are working with certified language schools throughout the UK who provide between 16 and 32 hours a week of intensive structured English language tuition, and support the students with their travel expenses, course materials, tuition and exam fees. Reaccreditation is expensive, for example £6,000 for a doctor or lorry driver, or £10,000 for a pharmacist or lawyer. We lend the money to cover the costs, interest free. Also, refugees often don’t like to describe themselves as refugees, which makes explaining gaps in their CVs difficult when the gaps relate to when they were going through something traumatic. We help with these too.
Why did Mulberry decide to get involved?
Sarah Roberts: When the news of the war in Ukraine first broke in the UK, we were all asking ourselves: how can we use our business resources to support in a really meaningful and structured way? We have roles where a professional level of English isn’t required, but it’s also about making sure that the individuals feels comfortable and confident in an environment where they can thrive and succeed.
What are AA doing to help?
Edmund King: The AA reacted well during Covid. We set up initiatives to help London get lots more ambulances on the road, and we gave free breakdown to 8000 NHS staff. So we thought: what do we do well, and what will refugees need? Many refugees who come into the UK are going to live in households in rural areas with no public transport. But driving in Ukraine is very different to driving in the UK. A few years ago, our charitable trust set up a course called Drive Confident. So we have tailored that to a practical two-hour course with a qualified driving instructor aimed specifically at Ukrainian refugees.
I’d heard Emma on The Today programme and the Sunday Times, and spoke to her about how we could spread the word. And as ever, Emma spread the word pretty quickly. We have already completed more than 200 courses, and have just introduced a new, online course – in both English and Ukrainian – that covers questions like: is your Ukrainian diving license valid, parking and smart motorways?
Emma, were you surprised at how many companies have offered to help?
Emma Sinclair: Most people want to help. We’ve got a million and a half open job requisitions is in the UK, so we desperately need employees. Plus my day job is all about finding the right talent for the right job.
The AA is a great example of some of the magic has happened over the last eight weeks. Vodafone and giving away free sims. Business are looking to solve the problem and most of the consortium members have got the scale and scope to make a big change. But there are things that the government and still not doing, so the surprise for me has been meeting Anna and seeing the scale of what RefuAid could be doing if they had the resources. The other surprise has been that I never knew it was possible to have so many LinkedIn messages. Plus every time my phone rings, it’s someone from some large company that wants to help.
Anna what are actually some of the challenges that RefuAid have had to face?
Anna Jones: Sometimes it’s the really basic things. For example, anyone with refugee status has for working rights in the UK, but not all HR teams and recruiters are aware of this. Pre the invasion of Ukraine, were were getting around eight to 10 applications per week. We’re now getting around 35 to 40, predominately for our language program. So we are working on scaling up. We are currently partnering with 104 schools and have started working with universities, which all have English language teaching departments.
What does it mean for a company to get involved in such an initiative?
Edmund King: Businesses have a social responsibility. Employees have a responsibility. What we do for the environment, our society, and our community is really important. Doing that extra bit also helps your business. When employees feel what they’re doing is worthwhile, then they will put in extra. So it helps the businesses, as well as those in their hour of need.
If there are other businesses or companies would like to help, how can they get in touch?
Emma Sinclair: Obviously contact me, contact RefuAid, and we’ve also set-up a special website, click on the link below…
Joumanna Bercetche, CNBC Anchor
Anna Jones, CEO of RefuAid
Sarah Roberts, Head of Talent at Mulberry
Edmund King OBE, President of the Automobile Association
Emma Sinclair MBE, CEO at EnterpriseAlumni