Counteracting skills shortages through investing in refugees


With ongoing skills shortages in the West Midlands, sourcing talent from the region’s diverse population could well be the answer to business’s recruitment problems.

And for those who are unsure how to make the most of this opportunity, ACH are there to help.

A pressing issue

With unprecedented numbers of refugees entering the UK, further austerity measures, and the Brexit vote, the past three years have seen a great deal of upheaval.

Meanwhile, skills gaps are an increasing concern in the West Midlands, as employers report that they are not reaching enough skilled candidates.

A 2017 report by the CBI showed that three quarters of businesses expect to increase the number of high-skilled roles over the coming years, but 61% fear that there will be a lack of sufficiently skilled people to fill them.

This skills shortage challenge threatens to hold back our economic growth. 

An untapped opportunity

However, there is an untapped talent pool of people, it’s increasing and it’s one employers are largely ignoring.

We believe that harnessing the skills of local refugee and BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) communities is the answer to addressing skills shortages in the region.

Research suggests that refugees tend to be motivated to integrate quickly, both by improving their English and gaining employment.

Migrant entrepreneurs also bring with them extensive international networks and language abilities.

With existing skills and experience, and the motivation to learn and succeed, it is clear refugees represent significant potential assets to businesses.

But with such a huge opportunity available, how can we make the most of it, and ensure these skilled individuals meet their full potential?

Maximising refugee potential

ACH (formerly Ashley Community Housing) was established in 2008 as a social enterprise specialising in integrating refugees through accommodation, support and community-based training.

In 2012 we opened our Birmingham office, and in autumn 2017 began working directly with employers to get refugees into career pathways.

Our in-house training company, Himilo, is already working with global coffee company Starbucks to train refugees as baristas in Birmingham and achieved further success in December 2018 by getting a cohort of learners employed as bus drivers by First West of England.

“It’s been great for Starbucks to work with ACH in supporting the refugee programme over the last few months.” Sarah Goule, Store Manager, Starbucks Birmingham.

We’re now looking for other partner businesses to maximise the talents of these under-represented groups and get them into quality jobs.

Julia Palmer, Employment Manager at ACH, said: “Working in partnership with employers is paramount in helping skilled individuals get started in not just a job, but a career.

"Refugees represent a population who seek a chance to rebuild their lives and have a fresh start in the face of extraordinarily difficult circumstances.”

We anticipate running group training programs with more employers in hospitality, transportation and construction, as well as other sectors.

Could you be one of these partner businesses?

Contact to find out more.