Supporting refugees into work in the UK: 3 strategies for success

Groundbites is our bite-sized blog on making London greener, stronger and healthier. This article features our Senior Employment Officer, Bryn Cochrane-Milne, who describes three strategies for helping refugees into employment in the UK.

I had the pleasure of working on Groundwork London’s ELEVATE programme from November 2018 until the end of 2019. I am immensely proud of the part we played to help refugees (with the right to work) move into employment, particularly where we managed to guide our participants back into their original careers in areas like electrical engineering, business management, healthcare, finance, administration and beyond.

It opened my eyes to the challenges refugees face in the UK job market and helped me identify the best strategies and resources available to overcome these barriers.

There are 3 core elements refugees need to move into employment:

  1. Language – getting to a conversational level for their industry
  2. Understanding UK recruitment practices – adapting their approach to fit the expectations of hiring managers
  3. Ability to prove experience and skills – which could come through volunteering opportunities or trial periods with an employer

To support refugees in developing these, we structured the ELEVATE programme to:

  • Provide entry-level English classes
  • Support enrollment into advanced English courses at local colleges
  • Run 1-2-1 and group sessions on CVs, interviews and employer expectations
  • Find volunteering opportunities, including within Groundwork London’s Volunteering Services
  • Develop relationships with supportive employers who proactively wanted to engage with and recruit refugees

Unfortunately, as of January 2020, the funding for the Elevate programme ended. The great news is we have two other projects which support refugees and other migrants into employment.

Our CIRCLE programme focuses on three areas integral to socio-economic inclusion working with refugees, migrants and UK nationals. These three key areas are culture, language and employment.

Our new programme, IMPACT, will begin in April 2020. It will have a similar focus to CIRCLE and will offer our services in London and Bristol.

For those who live outside of London, here are some useful resources and organisations to help refugees:

  1. – a great website for identifying voluntary opportunities. My top tip – give the organization a call don’t just “register your interest” online!
  2. – the Coordinator for the Refugee Employment Network – who are in touch with Groundwork and other charities and social enterprises supporting refugees across the UK
  3.– a web-based social enterprise linking refugee candidates with employers and an organization we worked with to identify suitable employment opportunities for Elevate participants

If you would like to speak to me about our Employment and Training programmes, contact me at 07809202551 or

Photo: Two refugee clients who were placed in full-time employment with Comptoir Libanais