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How can work opportunities for refugees be improved?

Launched during Refugee Week UK (14-21 June) by refugee employment charity Breaking Barriers, Fuse is a new network that unites businesses from different sectors to improve employment opportunities for refugees in the UK. Bringing together like-minded organisations to share best practice, learn collectively and take action, Fuse aims to raise the chances of refugees achieving employment, benefiting the UK economy and unlocking their potential.

Launched during Refugee Week UK (14-21 June) by refugee employment charity Breaking Barriers, Fuse is a new network that unites businesses from different sectors to improve employment opportunities for refugees in the UK. Bringing together like-minded organisations to share best practice, learn collectively and take action, Fuse aims to raise the chances of refugees achieving employment, benefiting the UK economy and unlocking their potential.

The UK is home to 374,000 refugees from a range of backgrounds*. Of the refugees that Breaking Barriers support 39% have completed higher education, 44% have good English, and nearly 60% have 4 years plus employment experience. Yet, there is no national strategy in place to support the transition of refugees into employment. Coupled with facing barriers into employment such as a lack of UK job experience, gaps of UK experience on CVs and negative media portrayal has meant that since June 2020 85% of refugees who came to Breaking Barriers for support were unemployed upon enrolment ***.

Fuse is a unique network that brings together some of the UK’s biggest and most influential businesses to help solve some of the real barriers facing refugees today. These businesses include Allen & Overy, Big Yellow, BNY Mellon, Cummins, General Assembly, Grant Thornton, Herbert Smith Freehills, Ipsos MORI, IKEA, Mayer Brown, Norton Rose Fullbright, Reward Gateway, Stephenson Harwood, TD Securities, U+I, WeWork and Western Union. Together they will share information, best practice and knowledge which will inform Breaking Barriers’ employment programmes, celebrate the contributions refugees make to UK plc and to UK society, and will help businesses advocate for better employment support for refugees.

Awais Ahmad, Breaking Barriers client and now Tax assistant in the Global Mobility Services Tax team at Grant Thornton, explains his journey into employment: “When my case worker at Breaking Barriers recommended I apply for a refugee placement at Grant Thornton, it was too good an opportunity to miss. I wanted a role where I could apply my ACCA qualification and build on six months’ experience as an accountant. Gradually, I built enough confidence to speak up more, take extra responsibility and greater risks. My efforts and contribution were noticed, which led to an offer of a role with the firm’s Global Mobility Solutions team, and my life changed forever. Grant Thornton embraces talent from diverse backgrounds. I want to encourage other businesses to look beyond the usual approach to recruitment.”

By pledging to join the Fuse network, businesses will join a community of like-minded organisations who all have a public purpose and believe in the power of business to affect change, uniting in a shared goal to improve the lives of refugees through employment. Connecting with other businesses through Fuse will send a powerful values-led message to customers and employees that companies are visibly committed to enacting change through greater inclusivity and responsibility.

Speaking at the launch of Fuse, Hani Kablawi, Chairman of International at BNY Mellon and Chair of Fuse said: “I know first-hand the challenges faced by those looking to establish a new life of safety and belonging. Refugees are too often undervalued, underrepresented, and overlooked. Yet, there is a huge amount of talent and potential waiting to be unlocked. I believe the private sector can, and must, play a role in helping refugees to find meaningful employment. By supporting Breaking Barriers and joining Fuse, you’ll connect with like-minded organisations to celebrate the value of refugees in our business and society and explore what more we can do together to improve the lives of refugees in the UK. We have an economic and moral responsibility.”

Matthew Powell, Founder and CEO of Breaking Barriers commented: “Over the past six years, Breaking Barriers has helped over 1,200 refugees get into employment and improved their educational opportunities. We do that through a partnership approach that lets refugees fulfil their untapped potential while benefiting the companies we work with. By asking businesses to pledge to Fuse, we are hoping that businesses will unite in their commitment to helping refugees, thereby delivering long-term change for many people across the refugee community.”

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