'This isn't about doing someone a favour' – how employing displaced workers can help mitigate the construction industry skill shortage

Offering work to displaced talent can help address the skill shortage facing the UK construction industry, according to recruitment experts.

During a panel discussion at this year’s London Build Expo on how social mobility can help close the construction industry talent gap, Abdul Mozzamdar, group social value director at construction recruitment agency PSR Group and Nariman Alkaddour, displaced talent ambassador at Build a Career — which sits within PSR Group — shared their views on how employing displaced workers can help construction companies meet their goals.

Build A Career was founded in 2019 by PSR Group in a bid to address the skill shortage through engaging with social mobility initiatives to support socially disadvantaged cohorts into sustained employment.

In addition to its programme targeting displaced workers, Build a Career promotes the recruitment of domestic violence survivors, ex-offenders, ex-forces, care leavers, and unhoused individuals, among other socially disadvantaged groups.

The company also works with refugees living abroad and connects their skills to UK companies in need of talent, Nariman explained during the discussion.

Build a Career operates a ‘skilled migration pathway’ through which it has access to 50,000 skilled individuals.

“We have an aging workforce where we have a lot of skilled individuals retiring, but not enough talented people joining at the bottom end,” said Abdul.

“We also must contend with Brexit — we are no longer able to attract talent from the EU and the colleagues we had here from the EU have now gone back to their home countries because it is no longer economically viable for them to live here.

“So, where are we going to get this talent from? Our talent pools aren’t expanding, they’re contracting.

“We need to encourage new cohorts of people that otherwise wouldn’t come into the industry.”

On employing displaced talent, Abdul remarked: “This isn’t about doing the right thing or doing somebody a favour, these are skilled individuals — we’re talking architects, design engineers, and site managers that are available and that you can bring back here to the UK to fill your skill shortages.”

“Displaced talent is another word for refugees,” said Nariman.

“We call them that because contrary to negative stereotypes, refugees are often highly skilled and qualified individuals.

“When these people leave their homes and their dreams behind, they do not leave behind their qualifications, skills, or degrees.

“However, because of who they are, refugees do not have access to free and legal migration pathways to move forward and do something with their lives.

“They end up moving into hosting countries that do not give them basic human and working rights, and they are discriminated and stigmatised based on who they are.”

This is why Build a Career was created, to help people in dire situations, while at the same time alleviating the skills shortage issue companies are facing, Nariman explained.

According to her, hiring refugees can bring more productivity, creativity and new ideas, while at the same time reduce unconscious employee bias and potentially increase retention rates.

“If your employees see you’re investing in such people, they’ll become more loyal to you as they see how you’re taking care of them,” she said.

Nariman claimed that refugees working in the construction industry also have a high retention rate, as they aren’t merely looking for employment, but desire a place they can call home.

“They’re looking for somewhere they can feel safe,” she said.

“You’re not only giving someone a job — the best thing about hiring a refugee is that you’re also going to be changing someone’s life for the better.”

Pictured above (L-R): Abdul Mozzamdar, group social value director at PSR Group; Kim Thomson, recruitment diversity manager at Kier Group; Stephen Cole, head of careers strategy at CITB; Nariman Alkaddour, displaced talent ambassador at Build a Career; and Chithra Marsh, associate director at Women in Property/Buttress Architects.


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