Posted: 28 Jun. 2019 3 min. read

A conversation worth having

Please note: the original article was written by Will Milner.

Going to the shops to buy essentials like milk and bread might seem a simple task, until you’re faced with a language barrier. That’s why Will Milner, a Talent Advisor for the UK, Switzerland and North West Europe, based in Leeds, was motivated to mentor refugees as part of a volunteering scheme developed through our partnership with Business in the Community (BITC). Here Will tells us about the importance of conversation.

It’s easy to take for granted our familiarity with British culture and how important this is for integrating into the community and for getting a job.

In the report, “Talent Displaced: the economic lives of Syrian refugees in Europe” 84 per cent of refugees surveyed reported that speaking the local language is their greatest barrier to accessing employment.

From small tips and pointers on local customs to simple language and grammar lessons, sometimes it’s these skills that make the biggest difference.

As a talent team, we’re always really open to new opportunities. When the chance to work on the mentor scheme came up it seemed the perfect opportunity to use skills from my day job to help change the lives of refugees as part of Deloitte’s One Million Futures initiative.

Over two months, we ran sessions on skills ranging from basic English to interview techniques. This was part of a flagship BITC programme, working with the World Jewish Relief Foundation, equipping displaced refugees with employability and language skills.

All of the refugees we worked with had different English language skills. Some may have only just arrived in the UK. To cater for this, we paired up volunteers with refugees to provide a more bespoke course.

I worked with Luke* who struggled with basic English so we focused on playing out different day-to-day scenarios. For example, going to the shops, the post office and running other errands.

Joseph*, a skilled Syrian chef also attended the course. We helped him write his CV so that it was fit-for-purpose in the local job market. We highlighted the skills and experience that were relevant to the local UK market and worked to pull out Joseph’s transferable skills.

My colleagues were able to research the hospitality sector on Joseph’s behalf and share his CV in the market. Joseph obtained interviews and connections off the back of this!

The sessions were held in our Deloitte Leeds office. Many of the participants weren’t used to a corporate setting so it was a great opportunity to help them feel comfortable in the environment of a large UK employer.

As a volunteer, I didn’t know what to expect from the course. The opportunity turned out to be extremely rewarding and gave me the chance to make a positive impact. It’s so easy to get caught up in the day job, it was great to take a step back and get out of my comfort zone!

The highlight for me was definitely the opportunity to help participants do something as simple as get on a bus or visit the shops. Asking about how their week had been and hearing about what they had put into practice was really rewarding.

It was inspiring to see their confidence grow and hear that they were no longer nervous about going to the shops - it showed me how much of an impact we were making.

At the end of the course, all of our participants were presented with a certificate. We had a celebration and some of our participants even brought traditional Syrian dishes for us to try.

We’re about to run the course again in the Deloitte Leeds office. I can’t wait to get started!

Last week was Refugee Week in the UK, and we’re proud to support refugees in their access to education and employability. Find out more about how we’re helping refugees overcome barriers through conversation.

* The names of the refugees have been changed for this blog.

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