New pilot programme connects skilled refugees to Scottish firms, closing worker vacancy gap

Natasha Catterson (Fragomen)

by Natasha Catterson, partner at immigration law experts Fragomen

RECRUITING the right people with the right expertise is an ongoing issue for UK firms. There simply isn’t enough talent to fill vacancies.

This challenge was brought home in a recent British Chambers of Commerce report which found that the proportion of firms finding it difficult to recruit was 79% – a record high for the survey.

This shortage of skilled workers knows no bounds, with vacancies across several sectors including technology, engineering and healthcare. It is for this reason that Fragomen provides support to, and why our lawyers are so passionate about the work undertaken by Talent Beyond Boundaries (TBB) and its ability to connect skilled refugees to employers. 

Fragomen and TBB have campaigned in and around government to highlight the work-related discrimination against skilled refugees. Until recently, it was virtually impossible for refugees to accept a job offer and move to the UK, often due to practical reasons such as a lack of documentation. 

These campaigns have enabled us to secure several Parliamentary debates, convincing government ministers to address this issue.

TBB took its work to Scotland this week in the latest phase of its campaign to promote the Displaced Talent Mobility Pilot, a UK Government initiative designed in collaboration with TBB. The organisation has been delighted with the warm welcome it has received as it seeks to offer a solution for roles that aren’t being filled locally.

In the past few days TBB has met with key people in COSLA, the Scottish Refugee Council, Just Right Scotland, the Scottish Government and industry leaders in the finance and tech sectors at meetings in Glasgow and Edinburgh. This engagement represents a significant step forward and can only be good for Scottish businesses and organisations looking to attract skilled staff.

This engagement represents a significant step forward and can only be good for Scottish businesses and organisations looking to attract skilled staff.

One of TBB’s prime aims in Scotland is to raise awareness of the pilot through which many skilled refugees and displaced people are connected to employers in the UK. It has already proved to be highly successful, bringing over 250 skilled refugees to the UK for employment in the past year – four of them evacuated from Afghanistan – and over the next year it expects to bring at least 500 more.

Scottish companies and organisations can recruit through the pilot – strengthening their workforce and giving safety to those that need it. Applicants will receive priority processing and case management support to overcome administrative barriers such as accessing passports or travel documents, employment references and tax records. 

TBB plays its part by allowing employers to look for skilled people – engineers, lawyers, IT staff, healthcare workers – through its talent catalogue, which in effect is a LinkedIn for Refugees. The catalogue has more than 30,000 candidates, many of them with years of experience in their chosen field.

Working in tandem with Fragomen, TBB’s preferred immigration partner, the visa process for a company’s new recruit can be relatively uncomplicated – provided they meet certain criteria. In addition, family members will be welcome as with any other Skilled Worker Visa. After five years they will be able to apply to stay permanently. 

It’s all about giving UK companies access to those talents that would otherwise go to waste.

The campaigning of recent times has already moved the system forward, and our aim is to secure permanent change across jurisdictions, benefiting tens of thousands of refugees – presenting them with new opportunities and transforming their lives – while helping combat the acknowledged talent shortage and benefitting local economies.

Employers interested in accessing TBB’s talent catalogue should contact

Natasha Catterson is a partner and solicitor with Fragomen, a leading firm dedicated exclusively to immigration services worldwide. Her clients include firms with offices based in Scotland. Fragomen has almost 5,000 immigration professionals and support staff in more than 50 offices across the Americas, EMEA and Asia Pacific. Fragomen offers immigration support in more than 170 countries.

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