In 2022, Micro Rainbow began working with British heritage shoe wear brand Dr Martens. Through this partnership, Dr Martens facilitated employment workshops with Micro Rainbow’s LGBTQI beneficiaries as part of the Moving On programme.
Micro Rainbow’s work and consultations have shown that LGBTQI refugees often struggle to find employment and live in poverty in the UK. A major obstacle to finding employment is refugees’ lack of UK-based work experience, and unfamiliarity with the UK jobs market.
Asylum seekers and refugees’ obstacles to employment
Refugees and asylum seekers frequently face other obstacles like low confidence and low self-esteem, and loneliness. Many of the LGBTQI refugees and asylum seekers Micro Rainbow works with have been rejected by family members. They might also have experienced rejection by fellow co-nationals and places of faith. For these and other reasons, securing employment can be difficult for Micro Rainbow beneficiaries.
Micro Rainbow works with partners in the third and private sector to provide one to one support over six to twelve months. The support might also consist of workshops around CV writing and teaching interview skills. Partners may also provide mentorship and can assist in facilitating job opportunities.
Working with Dr Martens
Working with private partners on the Moving On programme can provide practical and life changing opportunities for LGBTQI refugees and asylum seekers. Micro Rainbow worked with Dr Martens to deliver an employability workshop as part of the Moving On programme in August 2022.
Dr Martens’ team of seven came from all over Europe and had prepared extensively to ensure they could offer useful and practicable support. After consulting with Micro Rainbow, the team offered interview practice opportunities, presentation advice, and easily implementable tips on how to improve CVs. Micro Rainbow welcomed 14 beneficiaries to the event, which mean that each Dr Martens team member worked with two beneficiaries. The small groups meant the session could be tailored to the beneficiaries’ specific needs.
Skills and qualifications not recognised in the UK
The event’s beneficiaries were from countries such Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and Nigeria, where gay sex is punishable by death. All the beneficiaries in attendance were forced to flee their home countries because of the persecution, violence, and threats they faced because of their sexuality or gender expression. All had engaged with Micro Rainbow programmes such as Housing and Social Inclusion previously.
When refugees and asylum seekers find refuge and safety in the UK, they often discover that the skills and qualifications they achieved in their home countries are not recognised in the UK. Their CVs may also be in the wrong format, and this can present a barrier to applying for and securing interviews for roles. Lack of confidence and confusion about the process can likewise make giving presentations and performing in interviews a daunting task.
Tailored support catering to beneficiaries’ needs
Splitting into groups meant that beneficiaries had an opportunity for tailored support from the Dr Martens team. Thomas, a beneficiary from Namibia wanted specific help for his CV. He was given constructive advice on how to talk about his experience and qualifications:
“The advice was practical and to the point with the Do’s and Don’ts. They reviewed my CV and pointed out exactly what I needed to work on, how to make it appealing and stand out”.
Other participants found that the presentation and interview skills advice was particularly helpful. Having the opportunity to practice interview skills and to learn how to answer certain common interview questions is invaluable preparation. In-person workshops like this can help demystify the UK job application and interview process, and help beneficiaries grow in confidence.
This was the second Employability event that Huseyn from Azerbaijan had attended through Micro Rainbow. He found the Dr Martens staff:
“Really friendly and helpful. They taught us important CV writing techniques and how to apply to work. For me it was very exciting to attend this event as I was meeting the HR team of a well-known footwear brand”.
Thomas also found that the social aspect of the event was another benefit, saying:
“The employability event was great to attend, particularly the social aspect… After the event I grew in confidence and am ready to send out my CV”.
Micro Rainbow’s Moving On programme
Micro Rainbow works with partners to deliver the Moving On programme throughout the year. These sessions and events provide a wide range of holistic and practical support that help refugees and asylum seekers take the first steps towards moving on with their lives.
Alys Duggan, Micro Rainbow Coordinator for London and the South East, said of the Dr Martens event:
“In-person Moving On events like these are brilliant opportunities for our beneficiaries to work on their confidence, adapt their skills to the UK market, and network with professionals. The Dr Martens team were generous with their time and made sure to tailor the workshop to the specific needs of those involved. Everyone I spoke to came away feeling they had gained useful knowledge and a plan for tackling their next application or interview”.