BUSINESS chiefs have welcomed a new scheme aimed at getting refugees back into work.

Set up by Broadgreen-based charity the Harbour Project, Steps2Work aims to give new arrivals from across the world English skills, CV training and work experience.

Already, the scheme has got half a dozen people into work or volunteering placements. They include optician Khulood Mamkalo, whose story of dodging bombs in her native Syria was featured in the Adver and who is now volunteering at the Great Western Hospital.

Ian Larrard, director of group Business West, said: “I am forever hearing that skills needs and requirements for engineers, lawyers, whatever it might be are missing.

“There are a lot of talented people who have been forced to come here and we’re not making the most of them.”

The former management consultant, who has used his position as current president of the Rotary Club of Swindon to back the Harbour Project, said the charity did “fantastic work”: “You’ve only got to go down there to see it.”

Steps2Work has been set up by volunteer Bronwyn Young, a trained lawyer and former journalist. The programme, which has been running since January, has already helped one talented African refugee who learnt a new computer language in just three days into a well-paid role in IT.

Bronwyn said that Steps2Work grew out of being asked to help with would-be employees CVs. But she soon found that what people needed help with was the different work culture in the UK.

She said: “How would you feel if you ended up in rural China and didn’t speak the language or understand the culture? You would want to meet people, to learn to speak the language and to understand and learn the customs.

“That’s the starting point for Steps2Work. That’s exactly what our people are desperate to do. Our strategy is to help people at Harbour Project integrate and learn English by building bridges with the local community.

“Volunteering plays a very important part in this; many of our people come from cultures that emphasise a sense of community, and it makes them feel more at home to be giving back.

Using this step-by-step approach, we help them acquire the knowledge, experience and networks that will ultimately, when they have the legal right to do so, mean they can become fully contributing members of the Swindon community.

“It’s incredibly exciting to be part of something like which benefits and enriches individuals as well as the local community.’’

At a meeting of the Rotary Club of Swindon yesterday, Bronwyn previewed a new animation, created by firm Animate That, aimed at telling would-be employers about Steps2Work.

Introducing the video, Bronwyn said that she was hoping to get businesses support for the programme.

“One of the things I need most is a brains trust, people with local knowledge, ideas and experience to share with us to create the up-draught to help our guys fly,” she said.

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