MiFriendly Cities hopes to achieve these aims by creating new job and work placement opportunities, engaging with employers about hiring from within this community and creating a network of ‘Migrant Friendly Employers’.
On a delivery level, this comprises having a dedicated MiFriendly Cities Employment Officer in each region. The Employment Officers attend drop in sessions where individuals can receive tailored help with, for example, CV writing and interview techniques, and have previously aided the creation of an Employers’ Guide to help relieve anxieties surrounding the hiring of migrants.
This article will consider the challenges facing the reality ‘on the ground’, and how partners are working together to overcome obstacles and make a more Migrant Friendly West Midlands.
Challenge 1: Establishing Migrant Friendly Provisions
The initial challenge faced in each city was identifying which geographical areas the project should concentrate its efforts. For instance, migrant populations in Birmingham are not evenly distributed across the city, instead settling in some areas and not others.
Action: use city statistics to see which areas showed high numbers of citizens born outside the UK.
From this, see what employability provisions were already established in these areas. For example, Birmingham staff identified three weekly job clubs aimed at supporting migrant communities in Lozells, Ladywood and Nechells.
Such job clubs were generally managed by community organisations that struggled with limited resources and varying footfall.
Action: create partnerships and support community organisations in helping migrant communities into employment through ‘drop-in sessions’ that would allow visitors 1-2-1 support with CV writing and employability advice.
For example, Birmingham City Council’s MiFriendly Delivery Officer then attended the city’s identified job clubs for 3-4 months. Job clubs were generally welcoming of the support and happy to engage with the project, given their own limitations.
Employment Officers across the three areas quickly noticed that the drop-in sessions they had established or began to support were not long enough to provide enough help, acting merely as a ‘signposting’ service due to time limitations.
Action: Employment Officers offered the ability to book 1-2-1 support outside of drop-in sessions and referred to their relevant networks where possible.
Nonetheless, they recognised they would also need to create more direct opportunities through employer engagement, which presented new challenges.
Challenge 2: Employer Engagement
The Employment Officers from across the region all noted the same difficulty when trying to engage with employers: most employers lack confidence in employing migrants and refugees, especially from outside the EU, knowing whether they have the right to work in the UK.
Action: reassuring employers that all MiFriendly Cities participants that the Employment Officers would put forward had already been assessed for their right to work, and other stakeholders in the region had worked with them already.
This helped relieve employer anxieties about working with MiFriendly Cities participants.
Nonetheless, the sessions lacked direct opportunities for MiFriendly Cities participants, which would have enticed more footfall.
Action: use good employer relations to provide direct opportunities to MiFriendly Cities participants that would have otherwise not been possible.
For example, Coventry’s Employment Officer provided their clients with the chance to go to a recruitment day for a well-known hotel chain. Those that were interested could then book 1-2-1 support. Attendance was good and four people received job offers.
Challenge 3: Client Needs
Although 4 MiFriendly Cities participants received job offers, only 1 accepted. This was a result of specific client needs, which pose another challenge. A lot of MiFriendly Cities participants gaining employability support have care commitments, and thus are looking for jobs that provide, for instance, hours within school time.
Action: share this learning amongst cities and seek opportunities that are more suited to the clientele.
Challenge 4: Cross-Regional Synergy
Due to travel, many participants would not attend training courses, such as FabLab’s Carpentry/Painting and Derating courses, in other parts of the West Midlands. It has been made clear that work needs to be done to encourage participants to travel wider to take advantage of these great opportunities.
Action: work collaboratively amongst partners to help participants build their CV.
Nonetheless, working collaboratively amongst partners in different cities is not easy. Whilst it has existed since the start of the project, partners identified a need to extend these efforts.
Action: committed to sharing more opportunities for participants and key learnings at monthly work package meetings
Where possible continue to match participants to MiFriendly opportunities. For example, a participant from Lozells Job Club who had a background in IT was placed at partner Interserve for a work experience opportunity which led to a job offer.