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Softly softly

Five years ago, Niace launched an innovative project to discover the skills and qualifications of asylum seekers in the East Midlands. Since then, lessons learned in helping them to gain employment and become more integrated into their communities have been shared throughout Europe.

The project began with a skills audit among asylum seekers in Leicester. It revealed that a high proportion had qualifications ranging from school certificates to higher degrees, including vocational and professional qualifications. Many had been in skilled jobs before coming to the UK, most spoke more than one language and many had been engaged in voluntary work.

But, the research also highlighted, many are unable to provide proof of former studies or employment.

The EU-funded project assisted participants to put together a personal profile which helped them understand their position in the labour market, what skills were needed and their future options. Early findings suggested that skills audits were helping to reduce racism in communities by the successful integration of refugees.

The project formed a transnational working group on skills audits to identify and share good practice between the UK, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden.

"We also looked at soft skills," said Niace's European development officer Sue Waddington. "Someone coming from another country may have been influential in their community. They may have been doing youth work or educating people about the dangers of unprotected sex. So we exchanged ideas about how you get to those soft skills, also how you encourage people who are new to Europe to think about their aspirations and be realistic about the sort of jobs or education and training they might be able to access."

Niace has now embarked on a new project with partners in Italy, Austria, Germany and the Netherlands, looking at how migrants can progress in the European labour market.

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