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What can companies do to help refugees find work?

IKEA UK’s partnership with Breaking Barriers is in its third year and aims to help refugees find meaningful employment.

A portrait of Chahla
A portrait of Chahla

    Since 2017, IKEA UK and Ireland have been working with Breaking Barriers, a London-based charity that helps refugees find meaningful employment. The programme, which includes English classes, customer service training and assessment days aims to improve employment prospects for refugee people living in the UK.

    Chahla (pictured above) is a Sales Co-worker in the Home Decoration department at IKEA Greenwich. In her home country of Syria, Chahla was a lecturer in agricultural research, specialising in plant fungal disease and has a master’s degree in Plant Protection. Working in the Home Decorations department gives her the opportunity to work amongst plants once again and bring her expertise to the role.

    Chahla says, “IKEA and Breaking Barriers have both given me the opportunity to gain meaningful employment in the UK – not only to earn money, but to use the skills I learnt during my degree for a real purpose. They have not only helped me adjust to working in the UK, but have helped me with everything from my initial application and CV through to the supportive training programmes available at IKEA. My team leader is my mentor and teaches me something new about my role every day and also encourages me to help out other colleagues. I very am excited to progress in my role and look forward to adding to my knowledge to the business.”

    ‘Architects, engineers, lawyers… anyone can be forced to flee their country. This is an issue on our doorstep,’ says people and communities leader for IKEA UK & Ireland Hiliary Jenkins. ‘IKEA Foundation does impressive work worldwide, and while we were inspired by an internship programme piloted in Switzerland, this is a complex issue that’s different in every country. Since the partnership began, more than 150 refugees have received support with 29 gaining jobs at IKEA. We started with three stores in London, and in 2019, we hope to see every store in the country on board.’

    Hiliary Jenkins

    Honour World Refugee Day on June 20
    Find out what IKEA is doing to support refugees at This is IKEA
    Photographer: Caroline Irby