How does RefuAid's language programme help refugees resume their careers in the UK?
1,500 asylum seekers are currently waiting for a place on RefuAid's language programme, to gain the qualifications they need to continue in their career or education.
The RefuAid 'Language: A Gateway' project increases access to English language tuition for people who have claimed asylum in the UK and those in the process of doing so. Since it began in 2015, over 600 individuals have graduated from the programme. The biggest single group were doctors, who needed a language qualification to resume their careers in the UK.
English UK have now formed a formal partnership with RefuAid, pledging to support and publicise their work and encourage member centres to offer free tuition to support the language programme. Around a hundred members have so far offered free tuition to those on the waiting list.
We asked RefuAid's language lead, Mohib Ullah, to tell us more about his clients' journeys to the qualifications they need:
What happens when someone applies to RefuAid for help achieving a language qualification?
They will receive an initial call from us in which we will try to find out what their aim is and why they need the language qualification.
These applicants would be either students or professionals. Most of the time if they are students, they would need to resume or pursue higher education because their education was interrupted when they left their home countries. Therefore, we will gather information about their previous education and future goals and inspirations during the call. Similarly, professionals would be asked about their employment history and will be advised how they can re-qualify here in the UK.
Most of the professionals who apply to us are from healthcare backgrounds, but we have several other professions such as engineers, teachers, accountants. However, the largest group of professionals we have are doctors.
All these applicants will receive initial advice, and online resources to start practising their English while waiting for a space to become available near them in a language school."
Which nationalities do you tend to see most?
We see Syrians, Afghans, Iranians, and in recent years, we have seen refugees from Turkey.
What is a typical profile for your clients?
We generally accept clients who are either already qualified in their professional fields or students who are about to start university, so mostly it tends to be young students who will be pursuing their first degree, but we have qualified clients in different sectors particularly in healthcare. Our doctors' average age is 38, and they come with invaluable experience.
What level of English do your clients have?
We get applications from complete beginners to advanced students, but every applicant will do our internal level test. For anyone who is below ESOL Level 1, we will signpost them to local ESOL providers. So for IELTS or any other advanced courses, we would put forward B2 level students.
What qualifications do your clients need to obtain?
For requalification or higher education, clients need IELTS. A few professionals – doctors, nurses and pharmacists – can sit the OET exam too. We work closely with OET for our healthcare professionals.
Do your clients get any other support to help them succeed?
We have a holistic approach across our organisation. Each client is assigned a caseworker, who works closely with them until they have completed the programme. During this time, the client will receive financial support, such as travel money of up to £500 so that they can attend classes and we will also provide a fee for course material.
Once clients are deemed as exam-ready, we will pay for their IELTS or OET exam. Besides the financial support, clients will receive support with the UCAS process, personal statements, and anything that will help them overcome a challenge and feel supported while on the programme.
How can language centres benefit from teaching refugees?
Our students come from various backgrounds with extensive experience, and they show resilience, commitment and desire to achieve goals. They, of course, bring diversity to the class because they are from different countries.
Can individual tutors get involved?
We have a volunteer tutors programme for students who cannot attend schools and, in some cases, students who need additional help with their language skills while studying in our partner schools. Most of our volunteers are CELTA-qualified, and they are paired with suitable students depending on their experience.
So, we welcome applications from school staff who bring extensive knowledge of their teaching skills. The great thing about the tutors is that they provide additional support, such as helping with a personal statement or CV. The lessons are tailored according to the students' needs.
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