Housing represents one of the most common reasons for migrants and refugees seeking support, but poor quality housing is also a problem faced by the wider community, in particular by vulnerable older people and young people leaving care (see the interactive guide prepared by the project).
To address this issue, MiFriendly Cities is investing in the launch of two Pop-up Furniture Factories in Wolverhampton and Coventry to support activities aimed at community-led integration as well as addressing this housing issue. The factories will also serve as a long-term investment as part of the sustainability of the project.
Migrants and non-migrants can join an accredited vocational skills courses in carpentry, painting and decorating, or DIY skills. Participants are then invited to use these skills to upcycle furniture to makeover homes across the West Midlands for those in need.
Conversations with supporting staff, volunteers and tutors helps to improve participants conversational English. Participants are also taught what the appropriate tools are called in English, which will better enable participants to further progress in the UK with employment opportunities or volunteer opportunities in the community.
The Coventry Factory has now been launched in a space provided by the Coventry University Centre for Trust Peace and Reconciliation – one of the 11 project partners – and is now trialling the first of its accredited skills courses.
Kevin Taylor, the Coventry Factory Skills Trainer, said: ‘’All of the first participants of our first decorating course have experience of painting and decorating in their home country, however these qualifications are not recognised in the UK.
"Attending this course provides them with a recognised qualification, and we also work on trade-specific language to better prepare them for employment in the UK industry.’’
Mustafa Touran, a skilled migrant who having completed the course now holds a relevant UK qualification, said: "I am feeling happy of this course, and I also benefited because of the information. Thank you Kevin Taylor".
As course numbers increase following the initial pilot courses, the project will be reaching out for skilled volunteers to join the initiative, offering their own expertise and contributing to the social inclusion and informal language learning element.