A West Midlands refugee integration scheme has set a target to support 25,000 people over the next 10 years by finding them quality jobs in the region.

ACH (formerly Ashley Community Housing) was established in 2008 as a social enterprise specialising in the integration of refugees through training and accommodation.

The organisation has successfully resettled over 2,000 individuals from refugee backgrounds in this time and is now a leading provider of integration services for refugee and newly-arrived communities in the UK.

ACH’s unique approach focuses on building individuals’ resilience in the labour market, up-skilling and supporting them into sustainable, higher-level employment to develop their independence and ease their integration into UK life.

The organisation is now looking for partner businesses to maximise the talents of the refugee and BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) communities in the West Midlands and get them into quality jobs. Its #rethinkingrefugee campaign highlights how refugees can be assets to business, particularly in the face of Brexit and other factors such as an ageing population.

ACH’s in-house training company, Himilo, has already worked locally with global coffee company Starbucks and UK retailer Co-op in the south west to find long-term employment for refugees in the West Midlands.

The Starbucks courses train in customer service, the Starbucks brand, health and safety and language skills. The training finishes with a guaranteed job interview to potentially find work in a Starbucks branch in the West Midlands.

In a similar exercise in Bristol, seven learners went to interviews with Starbucks and three of them were successfully put through to the next stage of recruitment and matched to a local store.

David Jepson, ACH Director and Policy Advisor, said: “There has never been a more turbulent and uncertain time for those delivering public services, with the challenges of Brexit, an ageing population, financial pressures and the digital economy.

“Key to meeting future challenges is having access to employees who not only have the right skills, but also the right values; bringing commitment, flexibility and innovation to their roles. Yet many employers are missing out because of a failure to maximise the talent of local BAME communities.”

ACH’s work has the backing of the West Midlands Combined Authority, which understands the need to upskill and support BAME communities for the benefit of the Midlands region.

Dr Julie Nugent, Director of Productivity and Skills at the West Midlands Combined Authority, said: “There is a need to source skills more widely from the West Midlands’ diverse population, and despite huge investment into the region, far too many of our communities are being left behind, with unacceptable levels of unemployment.”

ACH recently hosted a round-table discussion looking at long-term solutions for refugee up-skilling, which was attended by the West Midlands Combined Authority, the Centre for Research in Ethnic Minority Entrepreneurship (CREME) at Aston University, law firm Gowling WLG and Coventry City Council, with another event planned for January 2019.

If your business would like to work with ACH to employ refugees, contact julia.palmer@ashleyhousing.com