Press Story

  • Research finds language barriers, precarious work and discrimination are barriers to career advancement among refugees
  • Trailblazing employers studied in Yorkshire show the way ahead for other regions across the UK
  • Charity calls for accreditation scheme for responsible employers of refugees, beginning in Yorkshire

A new report has urged the creation of a kitemark-style accreditation scheme for employers whose workforces include refugees and people fleeing war and persecution.

The IPPR report, Making strides, recommends more support be made available for people who want to re-start their former careers. It also recommends more be done to help smaller employers offer opportunities to people who have settled in the UK, having been forced to flee their former homes.

Researchers say the broad lessons from their study, which was conducted in Yorkshire, apply to employers across the entire country.

The IPPR report is based on research with people who settled in the UK, many of them having previously worked in professional roles as diverse as the diplomatic service, nursing and IT - but who struggled to regain their careers since settling in the UK. The accreditation scheme is one of several recommendations in the report designed to improve the career prospects of people looking to rebuild their lives after being accepted into the UK.

Amreen Qureshi, a Research Fellow at IPPR, said:

“Refugees in the UK often arrive with a wealth of highly prized knowledge, expertise and experience and there are some real success stories among employers in Yorkshire, the immediate focus of our research.

“However, there are downsides too. Language barriers, precarious work, and workplace discrimination are all problems. In addition, participants in the research told us about the intransigence they sometimes face at job centres and the fact they feel pressured into poor and unsuitable work.

“We learned that employers everywhere could do a number of things that really help. A safe and welcoming work environment, meaningful progression opportunities, providing help to learn English and buddying schemes. All these things make a difference within the region and beyond.”

The report contains a series of recommendations designed to improve the career prospects of refugees, including:

  • Creating meaningful opportunities for job progression, including training courses and mentoring for refugees and people fleeing war and persecution who want to rebuild their careers.
  • Fostering partnerships among employers and stakeholders, for example by co-ordinating workplace based English language training courses.
  • Raising employers’ awareness of the challenges and barriers faced by refugees and people fleeing war and persecution.
  • Delivering tailored progression support such as personalised job and career progression plans so people can continue to prosper.

One project in Sheffield is giving refugees with nursing or clinical backgrounds a route into the NHS. To date the ReStore project in Sheffield has helped eight refugees to qualify to work as nurses. The unique scheme provides English language and computing support, alongside the clinical skills training needed to pass exams that qualify candidates to become registered with the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC).

The programme is part led by Blerta Ilazi, an Advanced Nurse Practitioner, who said:

“I have created a connection with all my students, which has allowed me to give trauma-informed care. We are flexible. If they have a bad day at home, they can join classes from home. The most important part, when they leave for the hospitals, we make sure that trusts know that these nurses have been through a lot, so they should be aware of how they are communicated with, and any interviews have been arranged according to their needs.”


Amreen Qureshi, Research Fellow at IPPR and the report’s author, is available for interview

Blerta Ilazi, Advanced Nurse Practitioner, is also available (via IPPR)


Paul Hebden, Communications Advisor, IPPR North: 07413 729 505


IKEA Leeds

IKEA, in collaboration with the Refugee Council, offers individuals the opportunity to develop essential skills for navigating the UK labour market and supports them in securing long-term employment. It runs workshops on CV writing, making applications, interview techniques and customer service, among others.

In April 2021, IKEA also introduced the UPPNÅ scheme – an eight-week paid placement offering practical work experience, English language enhancement, and improved employability skills.

As of June 2023, 140 people from refugee groups completed the scheme, with 89 per cent securing permanent roles at IKEA (Business Matters 2023).

This initiative – a collaboration between Path Yorkshire, the Refugee Council and IKEA in Leeds – exemplifies successful efforts to address refugee groups’ skills training needs in Yorkshire and Humber.

The ReStore Programme, Sheffield

The ReStore programme is a new programme that creates pathways for refugees with healthcare backgrounds in their country of origin to become nurses within the NHS. Based in South Yorkshire, ReStore is in its pilot year and runs through the South Yorkshire Workforce and Training Hub.

The NHS previously had a national programme that helped refugee nurses; however, due to funding restrictions refugees were compelled to relocate to London, away from their homes, to complete the programme. This was difficult for some.

ReStore liaises with local hospitals and the voluntary sector in South Yorkshire as well as the Refugee Council and local jobcentres to provide structured support through a programme which offers English language support, training in computer skills, and the clinical skills training necessary to pass clinical exams to become registered with the Nursing and Midwifery Council.

The programme is spearheaded by Blerta Ilazi, with the support of nurse Emma Matthews. Through Blerta’s lived experience of going through the system herself, she was inspired to create pathways for other refugees with a nursing background to join the NHS.

Blerta emphasised the importance of offering pastoral support and trauma-informed education to the students on the programme:

At the time of writing ReStore is a bespoke programme, only found in South Yorkshire. It has so far supported eight people into nursing. When asked what the future of ReStore will be, Blerta hopes that the programme can support more nurses with more funding, not just in South Yorkshire but nationally, and that connections can be made with NHS trusts across the country. ReStore is now being used as a model of best practice for refugee integration in NHS employment.


1. The IPPR paper, Making strides, will be published at 00:01 hrs on 20th December 2023. It will be available for download at:

2. The research was based on qualitative interviews with 15 participants in Yorkshire (in June and July 2023) who came to the UK under one of four schemes:
- The Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP)
- The British national overseas visa for people from Hong Kong
- The Homes for Ukraine Scheme and Ukraine Family Scheme
- Asylum-route refugees who were granted leave to remain after a positive decision on their claim