Why was it so hard for this man to find work?On 2 Oct 2001 in Personnel Today Comments are closed. Dr Augustine Stevens is an example of why the Government needs to act tomake it easier for refugees to find employment in the UK. He is a former Minister of State for Education and Cultural Affairs forSierra Leone with more than 15 years of parliamentary experience. He was alsodeputy head of Sierra Leone’s Economic and Technical Cooperation Unit and is anexperienced lecturer who taught at the University of Illinois in the US for 10years. In 1997 he arrived in the UK and was given refugee status after he wasforced to flee his country because of the civil war. But despite his impressive CV it took him a year-and-a-half and more than 50job interviews to find employment. Dr Stevens was eventually offered a post by the Refugee Council, where he isteam leader for employment and support. “I came here in 1997 because of the continuing war in Sierra Leone.Because of my background I did not expect it too difficult to find employmenthere. “I pursued teaching positions but I could not secure any more than twohours a week. That was not enough to feed my family and keep me off thebenefits system I longed to leave,” he said. Dr Stevens, who has a doctorate in philosophy and political science,suffered 18 months of frustration as he attended interview after interview,being told he was either over qualified or did not have the necessary UKexperience. He said, “I think there were are some cultural difficulties. Forexample, in the US fundraising means selling cakes to raise small amounts ofmoney, whereas grant-raising is for large-scale projects. “While at the University of Illinois I helped raise $1m for theuniversity but I was not able to say that I had fundraising experience.” On another occasion Dr Stevens was asked whether he had mediation skills andso he outlined his role as a mediator during conflicts in his own country aswell as in Chad and Western Sahara, only to be told that this was not relevantbecause he did not have UK experience. “There are cultural differences that recruitment and personnel peopleshould be sensitive to when they are interviewing refugees,” he said. He applied for a huge variety of jobs including a position as a minicabdriver, which he could not take because he had no passport and consequentlycould not get a driving licence. Dr Stevens finally secured his job with the refugee council after workingfor another voluntary sector organisation and he now helps other refugees tryand overcome the obstacles he faced in his search for employment. He is convinced that there are many thousands of skilled refugees who couldmake a real difference to the skills shortages in the UK. “We haverefugees with experience in construction, medicine, health services, teaching,catering, the hospitality sector and tourism,” he explained. Dr Stevens believes that details of asylum-seekers’ occupations should beincluded in their application forms and the Government should invest in askills audit so there is a database available to employers revealing the rangeof skills in the refugee community. Another development that Dr Stevens would like to see is the creation of apermission-to-work document that includes details of refugees’ qualificationsand experience – one of the aims of Personnel Today’s Refugees in Employmentcampaign. “There needs to be something to give employers confidence to consideran individual fairly and remove the concerns that some employers have overhaving anything to do with refugees.” The Refugee Council plays a key role in helping refugees become moreemployable and offers training in business information, accounting, health andsocial care, IT and childminding as well as English language tuition. www.refugeecouncil.org.ukBy Ben Willmott Policy makers hear campaign aimsPersonnel Today took part in a high level policy-making forum on theeconomic and social implications of free movement of staff within the EuropeanUnion.The magazine’s Refugees in Employment campaign was highlighted at theInstitute for Public Policy Research’s influential seminar in London last week.Editor Noel O’Reilly and deputy editor Catriona Marchant outlined the aimsof the campaign and contributed to the policy debate.The forum was attended by academics, government policy makers in the HomeOffice and Foreign Office, the CBI, TUC and the Number Ten policy unit.Sandra Pratt, principal administrator for the immigration and asylum unit atthe European Commission presented a paper on common EU policy in this highly sensitivearea. www.ippr.org Previous Article Next Article Related posts:No related photos.