An Examination of Human Capital Development and Employability Strategies Aimed at Achieving Labour Market Integration of Syrian Refugees in the UK
Dr Miral Metawie, University of Roehampton
Project summary: Sixteen thousand Syrian refugees have resettled in the UK under the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme (VPRS) between 2015 and 2019. Whilst labour market integration through employment has been a key component for the successful resettlement of refuges in the UK (Gilbert, 2017), limited knowledge is known about the employability strategies developed/adopted at local levels to facilitate refugees’ participation in the UK labour market. Adopting a qualitative methodology, this research explores the effectiveness of the employability strategies adopted by local authorities in facilitating Syrian refugees’ access to employment opportunities and their labour market integration in the UK. Case studies were conducted with 4 organisations and included interviews and focus groups with caseworkers, local authority officials and employment officers. Findings suggest that whilst the number of employability programmes and the level of support offered to this group of refugees seems substantial, the majority of efforts remained limited due to institutional barriers. These barriers were largely caused by two factors. The first is a lack of engagement from various stakeholders, including employers and organisations, DWP, and even local Syrian communities; and the second, centred upon quantitative metrics that measured the effectiveness of the employability programme and those authorities delivering them. These metrics were criticised for diverting efforts from the real aim of employability programmes which is to provide meaningful employment and labour market integration for Syrian refugees. Instead, there were concerns that those refugees who found employment were at risk of being exploited. The research suggests that policies should extend their focus beyond contractual obligations and quantitative measures of performance to more meaningful engagement with employers, government bodies and third sector organisations.