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Employment for refugees

Here at IKEA, we want to create opportunities for the future that will enable refugees to feel welcome at a social level and that will also help them to earn an income, allowing them to progress, to grow and to provide a better life for their families. With this in mind, we have designed an Employability Programme for refugees which we give more details of below.

Now we have a better understanding of refugees’ need to feel welcome, both in society and in the workplace.

The Employability Programme for refugees is a training initiative in our stores which aims to improve refugees’ capacity for inclusion in the labour market and their integration into our society.

Our colleague, Laura Escalante, People & Communities Leader at IKEA Spain, will tell us a little about the project:

We wanted to play an active part in welcoming refugees in the wake of the migration crisis, so working in conjunction with the refugee aid NGOs Accem and CEAR, the Department of Employment, Migration and Social Security and ACNUR, we initiated a scheme called “The Power of Childhood with Refugees.” This has focused on improving the day-to-day lives of refugees and, particularly, of their young children who are the most vulnerable,” explains Laura.

Specifically, the programme comprises a five-week training placement in the store, which provides refugees with the resources and tools to improve their employability in the retail sector, and to encourage their present and future integration into the labour market. In addition, it gives IKEA workers an opportunity to work and develop in a diverse, plural and socially-conscious working environment.

Currently, we can say that the programme has had a tangible effect, given that over half of the participants found a job within 6 months of completing the programme, either within IKEA or outside.

On behalf of Accem, Germán Hurtado (the NGO’s Area Programme employment coordinator), commented:

Programmes such as the one we are developing with IKEA are very important, since they can be considered as an intermediate stage, linking training to entry into employment, which is necessary for the integration of the refugees into society. The support provided by IKEA mentors, and Accem’s technical staff has made the programme an authentic and innovative supported-employment experience.

Mr Hurtado also highlighted the importance of private companies and brands raising awareness of causes such as this. In the words of Germán himself, “the commitment of these companies and brands sends a powerful message to society in general and to the business world in particular, regarding the need to make a commitment to the society in which we live and the importance of coming together to build a better world - but that means a real commitment, backed up by action.

María Arós, of CEAR, believes that “the Programme has helped to build the participants’ self-esteem and confidence, as well as improving their technical and cross-cutting skills, and generating professional networks.

The impressions of those involved

Germán, of Accem, confirms that “the Programme is having a very positive effect on the individuals who have been involved in the pre-selection and selection processes, as well as on those who have been involved in the placements in the various Autonomous Communities.

For IKEA, one of the fundamental pillars of the Employability Programme was raising awareness among our workers of the situation of refugees and anchoring the programme in our commitment to equality.

According to the feedback received from those who have taken part, Laura says that “the stores and the individuals who have participated feel that they have acted as ‘agents for change’ in their communities, easing the process of including these people in the labour market and in society in general.

Moreover we, as a company, have learnt a great deal from this experience. Now we have a better understanding of refugees’ need to feel welcome, both in society and in the workplace.

We have also been conscious that people work better on equal terms, and that we can all do our bit to bring about a real change, by offering our knowledge, time and energy to help refugees to grow and to begin a new life in our country.

To conclude, we can all express our agreement with the thoughts expressed by Accem, CEAR and our colleague Laura, on how to make our country a true place of refuge:

Although the situation of the refugees is no longer front-page news in the media, it remains an unprecedented crisis that needs the contribution of society to facilitate the integration of these people, an integration that goes far beyond an initial welcome - as it means that they become part of our society in all senses. We should not forget that behind the numbers there are human beings, there are stories and there are lives,” argues Germán of Accem.

Refugees bring with them a broad and diverse range of talents, and so they can make a great contribution to our society and to Spanish companies. To achieve that, we need companies and brands to help organisations like CEAR to make it possible for people to come, and to get to know the culture and the workplace environment in our country. The involvement of companies’ professionals is vital because they are the people who know this culture and its workings best,” adds María of CEAR.

Only by being aware of the reality of the refugees’ lives and by working together for their welfare and for the creation of opportunities, can we ensure that these people can have a decent life and a future,” adds Laura.