Providing enterprise, learning and skills ‘on the go’ – Developing the enterprise and employability skills of migrants in Europe

We are in the middle of a growing refugee crisis that is taking place across the world. According to the latest UNHCR figures there were 68.5 million displaced people at the end of 2017 and the number is set to steadily rise. In 2015 over 1 million people made their way to the European Union as refugees, displaced people and other migrants.

The economic integration of migrants is one of the key priorities of the EU’s comprehensive approach to migration. There is a strong recognition amongst EU policy makers that it is crucial to empower legal migrants to develop their skills and get access to knowledge and support that can enable them to build a sustainable livelihood in their new host country. Employment is often offered as the main root for refugees to re-establish their lives. However, labour market statistics reveal that for refugees and migrants, integrating into existing labour markets is far from easy.

In 2018 unemployment rates for people born outside the EU aged 20-64 was 12.2%, nearly double that of native-born EU citizens at 6.2%. The key barriers identified in a recent review on Integration of Refugees in the labour market were revealed to be language, legal restrictions, lack of social networks and knowledge about the society. A previous UK study conducted in the North East by Northumbria University identified that difficulties gaining recognition for qualifications and experience gained outside the UK act as significant and frequent barriers to migrants accessing employment.

Given the many barriers for refugees and migrants seeking employment, there has been an increasing interest in entrepreneurship as a potential solution that could help to create opportunities for sustainable livelihoods, assist in accessing other resources and overcome barriers.

Whilst entrepreneurship can provide a potential solution and help migrants and refugees build a sustainable livelihood in their host country, there are still particular barriers within this solution too.

Research conducted in the North East of England on Refugee business start-ups identified some of the key barriers for refugees and migrants to set up in business as

  • A lack of awareness of the existing business support provision, accompanied by a belief where there is an awareness that the advice is enwrapped in bureaucracy.
  • A lack of trust in the service
  • A belief that quality advice will not be obtainable from the service
  • A view that advisors do not understand the culture of the person seeking the advice
  • Language
  • Racism
  • Unfamiliarity with business culture in the UK
  • The enterprise support service is fractured and confusing
  • That access to finance is problematic

More recently there have been support projects that aim to address some of the issues about accessibility of services when working with refugees and migrants. These responses have been focused on using technology as part of the solution.

A review of current research policies highlights that technology is increasingly being used to facilitate the integration of refugees and migrants with host communities and the labour market. The EC Action Plan (2016) on the integration of third country nationals recognises the need to harness the innovative use of technology, social media and the internet at all stages of the integration process.

SFEDI is currently involved in an Erasmus Plus project which is exploring how technology can facilitate the development of enterprising, learning and skills development amongst migrants and refugees.

The programme also offers a tool for vocational and educational trainers to utilise when offering training and support to migrants. SFEDI is a partner in the programme together with six other partners across Europe. The programme is set to complete this September 2019. It’s key objectives and outcomes are:-

  • To develop an enterprise learning and skills curriculum to build the necessary skill sets to support the business development needs of migrants and refugees in each partner country.
  • To provide appropriate in-service training for VET staff to support them in delivering the bespoke new curriculum
  • To produce a learning resource toolbox that will support the integration objectives of VET staff and the business development needs of migrant communities
  • To provide a state-of-the-art on-line learning environment to support those who have completed the Enterprise Learning and Skills Curriculum training
  • To draft and publish a Scientific Paper that sets out current provision in partner countries, provides a series of policy recommendations based on the experiences of partners in the ON-D-GO consortium

The learning resource toolbox, an on-line tool packed with practical resources providing migrants with the key things they need to know when starting and managing a new business is complete and the ON-D-GO consortium are testing the toolbox with refugees, migrants and are in the process of training VET staff. Dissemination events are being planned with a final conference to be held in Ireland.

If you are interested in learning more about the project and testing out the toolkit yourself, please visit:

If you are a refugee or migrant business owner and/or a vocational educational and training professional who would like find out more about the specifics of the project please do get in touch or explore ways to be involved please contact [email protected]