September 5, 2023

Local Employers Invited to First Refugee Employment Fair of Its Kind

Leading agencies, charities and businesses come together to connect employers with job seekers experiencing language barriers, learning difficulties and disabilities or missed education.

In partnership with the Department for Work & Pensions and EY, charity organisation, Refugee Employment Network (REN) is hosting an employment fair designed specifically to support refugees, as well as people with literacy challenges, to ensure equal access to appropriate paid employment opportunities.

REN’s mission is to support refugees to find suitable and sustainable work who have skills and experience to bring to the UK labour market.

The free event, which takes place just ahead of this year’s International Literacy Day from 10am to 5pm on 5 September 2023, at the STEAMhouse Building, will provide advice and guidance for both job seekers and businesses.

Businesses in Birmingham and the surrounding area, who have open employment opportunities, are being encouraged to participate, as well as organisations who can offer skills support in areas such as digital, financial, language and English literacy.

Pocketalk, a digital translation business which offers instant, accurate translations for up to 82 languages will be attending the fair to share how its technology has helped a variety of sectors over the past year, breaking down language barriers, and helping to attract talent.

Jess O’Dwyer, Pocketalk general manager for Europe, explains: “As a result of Brexit and the impact of the pandemic many UK businesses have struggled, and continue to struggle, to find and recruit the staff that they need to meet their requirements. The UK’s labour shortages has meant many organisations now need to attract foreign workers, such as refugees and migrants who have skills but have English as an additional language, more than ever. With refugees integrating into local communities this is an opportunity for businesses and foreign job seekers alike.

“We are one part of the story in overcoming communication barriers, whether they are encountered from speaking a different language, learning difficulties and disabilities or missed education. We look forward to helping and supporting REN and all the partners involved in this event.”

REN works across the UK with all refugees and has a wide network of over 360 members, including local councils, charities and employers. To date, the charity has engaged with over 550 employers and posted over 17,500 jobs nationally on its jobs board. This is the first time the charity has hosted an event specifically for refugees with language challenges.

Mark Whitehouse, district partnership and progression lead at DWP, said: “Birmingham is a super diverse city, and has always been a city of immigrants, from its earliest history. We are encouraging local employers to attend the event and meet prospective employees that have skills to offer, but need support overcoming communication barriers, reading and writing challenges, and additional needs. We hope the fair will unlock a pool of untapped talent.

“With 100 plus different languages spoken locally, some employers may see that diversity as a barrier to communication but may be missing out on a fantastic talent pool as a result.

“Our event will dispel the myths and perceived pitfalls associated with employing someone with either translation, language, or literacy challenges, showcasing how easily employers can access the potential of these individuals, many of whom are already working, but have so much more to offer.”

Janice Lopatkin, Chair of REN, says: “This job fair has been designed as a ‘one-stop shop’ for refugee employment with support agencies, local authorities and employers all available to provide advice, guidance and jobs.

“About one in 10 people do not speak English as their first language, while in large urban areas with a diverse population it’s likely to be higher. It’s crucial that we help break down language barriers for people, particularly refugees, which could unlock a huge pool of workers.”