PwC, Portman Dental Group and recruiters FDM and PageGroup are among companies that have signed up to a scheme that will sponsor hundreds of Ukrainian refugees seeking employment in the UK.
Each company will help 50 refugees to learn English and receive resettlement support, while other groups have agreed to provide training and further help for refugees to rebuild their lives in the UK.
The consortium has been brought together by British entrepreneur Emma Sinclair. She said there was “an overwhelming desire to help refugees resettle and have meaningful lives, finding employment commensurate with experience”.
Sinclair added that the launch was the first step “towards significantly accelerating the pace” and that a second, larger wave of companies had been assembled and would be announced shortly.
The companies are in talks to help provide employment opportunities for people fleeing the crisis in the Ukraine who have already qualified for visas or asylum in the UK under the government’s existing programme.
Organisers are hoping to find suitable jobs that will allow refugees to live independently in the UK. The group also wants to identify jobs that correspond to the skills and experience of the refugees so those already trained in skilled professions such as healthcare and engineering will be able to obtain equivalent roles.
Kevin Ellis, chair and senior partner at PwC, said a “profession is part of someone’s identity — we want to use our strengths as a training business to support refugees into the right work for them”.
The consortium is working with RefuAid, which aims to provide practical means for people to use their professional backgrounds for employment in the UK.
Most skilled professions require both English language and UK re-accreditation to practise, which usually involves undertaking exams or further training.
Anna Jones, chief executive of RefuAid, said the group already had 316 engineers, 466 doctors, 102 nurses and 56 teachers on its books.
More than 120 large companies are in talks with the organisers about signing up to the scheme.
Many sectors in the UK labour market are facing a lack of suitable workers. PageGroup chief executive Steve Ingham said the consortium would “provide talent to UK businesses that are crying out for skilled employees as well as break down entry barriers to employment for the Ukrainian refugees”.
The first part of the programme, involving recruiters FDM and PageGroup, PwC and Portman Dental group, will be launched this week, with the second wave of companies expected to sign up by the end of April.
The AA and WHSmith have also agreed to support resettlement and reskilling. The AA will give free driving lessons to Ukrainian refugees while WHSmith said it would support employees with supplies if they are hosting refugees.
Carl Cowling, chief executive of WHSmith, said its staff would receive a £100 voucher to buy books and stationery and the company would try to find employment for refugees.