The arrival of refugees and displaced people in Aberdeen because of war and violence in their home countries triggered a massive employability response by Aberdeen City Council and partner agencies.

A new report, detailing the steps taken to support Ukrainians, Syrians, Afghans, and other nationalities into training and employment, was launched at today’s inaugural ABZWorks Conference.

The report details a series of actions taken to rapidly provide employability support to the city’s newest residents, and the challenges faced.

It includes the results of a survey carried out to establish the skills base and employment history of refugees, displaced people and asylum seekers in the city, the sectors they worked in before coming to the UK, and their main barriers to employment – with a lack of English language skills being the greatest hurdle.

The report highlights the involvement of the Local Employability Partnership and key partner agencies in delivering support to hundreds of vulnerable people with significant barriers to employment, and outlines opportunities to develop and refine that response for the future.

It also highlights two Scottish firsts – hiring two Ukrainians as employability keyworkers to support displaced people; and the delivery, in partnership with the Refugee Employment Network of a jobs fair specifically for New Scots.

The conference theme, Growing Our City’s Workforce together, heard from Scottish Government official Chris O’Hanlon about Tackling Child Poverty ambitions; Community Planning Aberdeen’s economy group Aberdeen Prospers chair Dr Allison Carrington about Employability and the Local Outcome Improvement Plan, and from Council officers about the Supporting Displaced People and Refugees into Employment: What We’ve Learned so Far report.

Councillor Desmond Bouse, vice-convener of the Anti-Poverty and Inequality Committee, opened the conference. He said: “The theme of partnership working and learning from one another as we grow our city, and our workforce is an important thread which ran throughout the ABZWorks Conference.

“Employability, supporting people into work and alleviating poverty are key themes and a priority for Aberdeen City Council. Employability runs throughout our Local Outcome Improvement Plan and the Regional Economic Strategy and is key to reducing poverty and inequalities in the city.

“It is not just about getting people into work, it is about getting them into sustained, quality employment, and out of poverty. Events like this are important to understand what has already been done and celebrate the successes, but also for us to realise what more could be done and how we can achieve it.”

Janice Lopatkin, chief executive of the Refugee Employment Network, said: “It has been fantastic for the Refugee Employment Network to collaborate with ABZWorks to deliver a jobs fair for refugees settled in Aberdeen. ABZWorks bring a wealth of local knowledge and understanding of the jobs market and understands the needs of refugees to access sustainable employment. Refugees in Aberdeen and across the UK need to access suitable employment so they can use their skills, experience and qualifications to rebuild their lives and support the local economy.”

ABZWorks Conference attendees, which included members of the Local Employability Partnership and training providers, as well as the speakers and elected members, participated in three workshops: Current and emerging employability gaps; What are you doing and how does this feed into the bigger picture to support the people of Aberdeen; and How can we support parents to tackle child poverty? The information gathered will be used to inform the next Local Employability Partnership Action Plan and inform commissioning activity.

The report, Supporting Displaced People and Refugees into Employment: What We’ve Learned so Far, is available online at

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