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Wales’ First Minister and Welsh businesses come together to explore groundbreaking refugee employment pathways

13 October 2022

Delegates at the first Work That Works forum including First Minister Mark Drakeford

First Minister Mark Drakeford and Welsh businesses attended a new forum at Cardiff Business School to discuss how organisations and refugees can work in partnership for sustainable employment.

The conference, Work That Works For Everyone, hosted by Professor Tim Edwards at the Postgraduate Teaching Centre at Cardiff University, highlighted the challenges of refugee employment in Wales and the desire to be a welcoming country to work and live in.

Pro Vice-Chancellor and Head of College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences Urfan Khaliq opened the talks with a welcome address with over 70 in attendance.

He discussed the challenge for companies not familiar with the needs and requirements of those new to the country while experiencing hardship.

Mr Drakeford then set the scene by highlighting the challenges everyone is facing, “There is enormous turmoil in the UK economy as we speak and we could be in an era where those who have the very least will be left with even less.

“It’s a bleak context to what we may be facing here in Wales. It’s going to be a hugely challenging winter for so many people and an inescapable backdrop to discussions in this forum.

“There are practical challenges to make work work for everyone, however, we want Wales to be where refugees from extraordinary circumstances will be welcomed and celebrated.

“Their presence in Wales is a gift to us.”

First Minister Mark Drakeford delivering the open speech at the first Work That Works For Everyone forum
First Minister Mark Drakeford delivering the open speech at the first Work That Works For Everyone forum.

Delegates from organisations in Wales and the UK discussed the challenges around employing refugees.

Newport brewer Tiny Rebel saw Beccy Legge, Head of People, in attendance, who spoke of the missed opportunities there are in employing refugees due to the barriers in place.

She said, “There’s an untapped pool of talent that can add so much to your business that it seems silly not to have that in our recruitment strategy.”

Allyn Burford, People and Culture Manager at IKEA Group, however, highlighted the successes that can be had in refugee employment, “IKEA experience a 95% retention rate of employed refugees with the development of skills within our company valued.”

Employer Liaison Officer Joe Cicero at Cardiff Council added, “For many of us, we can only imagine what it would be like to be forced to leave our homes, families and careers at no fault of our own and having to start again.

“I’m really pleased we’re all here today to be part of that perilous journey to come up with practical solutions.”

The Council is currently piloting a programme to get refugees into employment by creating pathways into work.

The afternoon finished with breakout sessions among the attendees to begin work on the way forward.

Many refugees come to Wales with prior experience, qualifications and skills yet find barriers to employment.

Refugees can bring significant value to businesses, addressing skill gaps, nurturing a diverse and inclusive workplace and enhancing social impact by solving obstacles to employment.

The university will use the event as a springboard to work together with businesses across Wales to find solutions to refugee recruitment barriers.

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