Arup’s Refugee Return to Work placement programme in partnership with Transitions social enterprise

Mina Prince, Skills Employment and Education Consultant, Arup on how the company partnered with the social enterprise Transitions to create their Refugee Return To Work placement programme:

The UK refugee unemployment rate is around 70%. This is 14 times the current UK unemployment rate of 5%. Refugee employment is one of the great social, economic and political challenges facing many countries.

Arup is committed to helping qualified people with refugee status to return to a related career path by offering a paid work placement within our UK business. We aim to offer candidates the chance to gain experience working with a UK company, aligned to a business area as closely related to their technical experience as possible. We also give them the opportunity to enter the Arup talent pipeline, on a level playing field with other applicants.

Untapping refugee skills and experience

In 2018, Arup piloted their Refugee Return to Work placement programme and partnered with Transitions to provide placement opportunities for refugees within the engineering sector. Arup organised refugee placements with HS2 as part of HS2 Ltd’s Phase One programme, to design the new station that will be constructed at Euston.

Three engineers were placed within the design management and stakeholder engagement teams, for a period of three to twelve months. To further their exposure, we provided them opportunities to gain experience within other teams in Arup, to broaden their skill sets, networks and, opportunities to present and engage with clients at HS2.

The objectives of the Arup & Transitions Return to work placement programme are to:

  • Explore a new and expanding talent pool in the UK with refugees who have the right to work in the UK
  • Gain access to motivated individuals who are actively seeking meaningful employment
  • Enable candidates to gain a deeper understanding of the UK workplace and business
  • Help candidates develop and utilise English business language in a work environment
  • Create experiences and provide support to the candidate in the delivery of projects and professional assignments
  • Provide a development opportunity for the line managers, business sponsors and buddies involved in supporting a candidate
  • Give opportunity to develop Corporate Social Responsibility, diversity & inclusion awareness and skills, coaching skills and effective communication

Creating an environment that supports development and growth

Before being presented to Arup, Transitions selects candidates with relevant skills. They assist candidates to identify and articulate their transferable professional skills to Arup and to engage with their professional bodies and Naric.

The programme provides support to placement candidates through a network of people. Prior to the placements commencing, Arup and Transitions undertake a manager briefing session. This provides managers with guidance on interviewing refugees and educates them around possible challenges that refugees may face.

During the placement, each candidate is allocated a manager, mentor and buddy to support their career and personal development within Arup. Journals are provided to facilitate review discussions with managers, to help candidates map their learning, development requirement, training needs and career objectives.

Due to the success of this pilot we are now working to widen this placement across other HS2 projects and other client work across the UK.

The HS2 project team are working closely with their suppliers, to identify opportunities where we can place refugees within their teams.

We are also hosting Transitions Bi-annually Supplier Seminar, looking at ‘Commissioning for Inclusion’, where we will promote good practice in the hiring and management of refugees amongst key clients.

“I’ve gone from working in a coffee shop to returning to work as a Design Engineer, with one of the best Engineering companies in the UK.” AT, Civil Engineer

To find out more about Arup’s Refugee Return to Work programme please contact: Mina Prince