Minority ethnic clients will face many of the same barriers as
other disadvantaged groups, using employability services including
difficulties accessing childcare, being stuck in a benefits trap or
having few skills and little employment experience.
People from minority ethnic groups can also face specific
barriers and it is important to be aware of these. This section
covers the most critical barriers encountered by minority ethnic
clients, based on research and talking to services currently
working with people from these groups.
A flexible approach and a strong equalities perspective can
address barriers effectively. This should involve:
- Flexibility in terms of service design and the kind of support
which can be offered including flexibility intensity of support,
timings, location and structure of training;
- Addressing barriers such as poor basic skills, housing problems
or substance misuse issues as well as employability issues;
- Tailoring support to meet diverse participant needs and
The Roma Employability Service case study on the
Employability in Scotland website is a good example of this
perspective and shows how support was put in place to meet the
additional needs of Roma clients.
Discrimination is the key problem which minority ethnic people
face when they are trying to get a job or progress in the labour
market. It is important to understand the dimensions of
discrimination and to be aware of all of the ways it can affect
It can affect entry to the labour market. For example, a
research project found apparent ethnicity determined by a person's
name on a job application affected whether applicants were
successful on the first round of the selection process. There is
other evidence that although people are often short listed for jobs
they face difficulties moving from the short listing stage into
Discrimination is also the reason why people have difficulties
progressing in the labour market. Many people remain underemployed
in jobs which do not reflect their qualifications. Many are
segregated occupationally in certain sectors such as catering and
hospitality and find it difficult to move into other sectors. There
tend to be lower retention rates and higher exit rates with a range
of reasons for this including harassment and isolation at work.
Yet race is not the only dimension on which discrimination can
be based. People can be members of other equality groups linked to
disability, sexual orientation, age, religion or belief and
therefore experience multiple discrimination when these factors
intersect. It is important to be aware of the issues around
intersectionality which can compound problems for minority ethnic
clients and increase the discrimination they face.
When working with clients it is important to:
- be aware of the way that discrimination can affect client's
- help clients cope with discrimination and make them aware of
sources of support;
- work with employers to tackle discrimination for example
through offering training or bringing employers together to discuss
- promote the benefits of employing a diverse workforce among
These latter two actions are discussed later in the
Sources of information and support for tackling discrimination
Women can face additional barriers as a result of being female
and from a minority ethnic group. Specific barriers for minority
ethnic women include lack of access to childcare, occupational
segregation and pay gaps, cultural attitudes towards women and lack
of social capital. Women also tend to bear the brunt of
decline in local services like childcare, ESOL and community groups
further isolating them in precarious socio-economic
The key barriers for women refugees include difficulties
matching qualifications to UK equivalents, language barriers,
college and childcare commitments and employers' understanding of
Understanding of the Labour Market
Several of the services we spoke to when developing this toolkit
told us some clients may have very limited understanding of the UK
labour market and how it works as they may have been out of the
labour market for some time. They will require help to develop
their job seeking skills.
This is particularly important for people who are migrants,
refugees or asylum seekers as the usual procedures and cultural
practices for obtaining a job in the UK may be quite different to
those used in people's country of origin.
Clients will need assistance with:
- finding out about where to look for jobs;
- what job adverts mean;
- how to apply for a job;
- how to create a CV;
- interview skills;
- what training opportunities are available;
- understanding that it can take a long time to get a job.
Examples of work to address lack of understanding of the UK
labour market are highlighted below.
Initiative found many of their Roma clients had
misconceptions of the UK labour market. They knew little about the
culture of work in the UK, employers' expectations and had a
preference for casual work. The project had to spend some
time working through these issues but have found that the improved
understanding has had a positive impact on the sustainability of
organises workshops to help clients develop job application
techniques, preparing a CV and interview skills and increase
confidence about applying for jobs.
Building confidence is a likely to be a key part of work with
minority ethnic clients. Being out of the labour market for
some time, or facing discrimination when applying for jobs can have
profound effects on clients' self confidence. Undergoing the asylum
process can affect people's self confidence and skills and can lead
to gaps in work histories.
Confidence can be built in many ways, but groups can be
particularly helpful people often welcome the chance to meet
with others in the same situation and to develop peer
English Language Fluency
Research has found that one of the most important factors
affecting ability to find work is fluency in English. This affects
whether employment is secured, the type of employment, promotion
prospects and earning potential. This means that for all clients
for whom English is not their main language, their level of English
can present a significant barrier to gaining employment. English
fluency can be determined by amount of contact with English, length
of residency in the UK and ability to access English classes. It is
in this latter area that employability projects can make a useful
contribution by helping people to access the right kind of
ESOL classes are available across Scotland in many forms and at
a range of levels to help people achieve a qualification in
English. The right type of provision for an individual learner
depends on their circumstances which include level of English,
access to funding, whether they want a qualification or need access
to childcare. For some learners, a community-based class may
provide a less intensive and more local starting point. However, in
many cases, (e.g. for those wishing to study at higher levels) a
college main campus place may offer more appropriate courses of
study. ESOL may be offered as a standalone course or it may be
embedded in a vocational training programme. For instance, a
construction skills course may be taught by a tutor who has an ESOL
qualification and can teach both construction and language skills.
ESOL may also be studied as a main course, with a module in another
subject, such as IT embedded in it. ESOL learning may take place in
private institutions or within the workplace. Much publicly funded
ESOL provided by colleges, universities, community based providers
and voluntary organisations is free.
For case studies on different ESOL delivery modes, please see
the ESOL Scotland website.
Types of ESOL qualifications
Three main types of ESOL qualifications are offered in
- Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) awards which are
provided as part of its NQ framework and which are recognised by
education establishments and employers across the UK.
- Cambridge ESOL qualifications which are recognised around the
- Some providers help people to prepare for the International
English Language Testing System (IELTS) which is an indicator of a
candidate's ability to communicate in English.
More information about these qualifications can be found on the
website or the Cambridge English website.
The type of qualification chosen can depend on why the person
needs the qualification. If they are looking for work, the SQA ESOL
for Work units may be most appropriate. If the person wants to
learn English to support an application for British citizenship,
the Home Office will require an SQA qualification at Access 2 -
Intermediate 1 level. If the person is looking to go to college or
university they will probably need to attain a qualification
equivalent to SCQF Level 6 such as SQA Higher ESOL or IELTS 6.0 and
above. The different ESOL levels and qualifications and how they
map unto the Scottish Credit and Qualification Framework is
Figure 9: ESOL Levels and Qualifications
Understanding ESOL Level Descriptions
Glasgow Clyde College in conjunction with the former Glasgow
South East Regeneration Agency developed useful ESOL indicators to
help employability practitioners better understand how skills at
different levels might relate to job skills. These indicators,
which are described in the table below, are useful in explaining
the ESOL levels outlined above.
Further information about ESOL levels and qualifications can be
found on the Education Scotland's website.
More generally, the quality of ESOL provision can be judged by
determining the extent to which it meets the principles for adult
ESOL provision set out in the Government's ESOL strategy. This
states that provision should:
- support inclusion and full participation in society and the
- promote diversity, by recognising and valuing cultures and
contributions migrants can make to the economy;
- be of good quality, that is accessible, cost effective and uses
best practice in teaching languages;
- support achievement, supporting wider and national literacies
- support and encourage progression into further learning,
employment and in local community life.
Linking ESOL Provision and Employability
It is increasingly recognised that ESOL needs to be
better integrated with other services, particularly
employability services. Like many clients accessing employability
services, minority ethnic clients may have barriers to learning and
may need encouragement and their confidence built to take part in
learning. Clients can be referred for an ESOL assessment carried
out by a trained ESOL practitioner to provide them with a test of
their speaking, listening, reading and writing skills. This may
help clients to gain confidence and to access an appropriate course
of ESOL. An example of work is provided below.
|In Glasgow, ESOL Assessment and Advice Sessions are held in
different locations in the city on different days of the week.
These provide access to ESOL initial assessment and advice on
learning opportunities and help learners to access appropriate ESOL
courses of study. The sessions also allow ESOL providers in the
city to gain information about learner needs and demand. Following
initial assessment, the assessor and client discuss the recommended
level of ESOL study and information on local providers to decide
which offers the most appropriate ESOL course. For more information
about the service, see the Learn ESOL Glasgow website.
Where the required resources are available, ESOL can be included
within a package of support for clients, as in the example
The Bridges Programme in Glasgow, which offers
employability support to refugees, asylum seekers and migrants, has
tasked City of Glasgow College with developing vocational ESOL
courses for its clients. This was because staff of the programme
realised that clients who have no work experience in the UK
sometimes struggle to find the words in English to express
themselves in relation to their vocation and also that cultural
differences add to the barriers to work facing clients.
So far ESOL vocational courses have been offered to clients in a
range of subjects, including social care, early years education,
construction, finance, customer care and employability skills. A
laboratory technology course is also likely to be offered to the
programme's clients in the near future.
The courses are designed to prepare clients for work and cover
the language/vocabulary needed within the particular vocation, as
well as work ethics and workplace culture (such as the importance
of punctuality and the need to phone the workplace if one is going
to be late). Clients are also taught how to make e-portfolios. The
courses take 90 hours to deliver over a 6 week period and are
delivered at the Bridges Programme premises. Clients may also
undertake work placements. With clients having different levels of
ability in English tutors assess them to determine their correct
At the end of the courses clients gain SQA units, language
skills and improved confidence and self esteem.
ESOL providers can be located on the ESOL Scotland
website, which provides information about publicly funded ESOL
courses, has a directory of courses which can be searched as well
as a list of college and community based ESOL contacts. It also
provides information on funding.
Some minority ethnic clients might also be facing other issues
that are affecting their employability such as poor health, housing
issues, access to childcare and benefits traps.
Poor health is a barrier to employment and job retention and is
related to deprivation so affects minority ethnic communities who
are more likely to live in deprived areas. Information to help
understand about issues relating to health, inequality and
discrimination can be found at NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde's
Equalities in Health website. See: www.equality.scot.nhs.uk
Some projects work specifically on health issues. An example is
shown in the box below.
Community Health Project works with people who have poor health
but want to return to work. It developed a skills development
programme for this client group a key element of which was personal
development. The programme helped people with long term health
conditions gain confidence and take up volunteering opportunities
to help them move into work. See a case study of this project
on the Voluntary Action Fund website.
Housing is a very important issue which affects the ability to
gain and remain in employment. Some minority ethnic clients may
face housing issues, including difficulty securing housing; getting
access to good quality housing and finding housing in areas where
they are safe from the threat of racial harassment.
The incidence of recorded homelessness affecting households from
minority ethnic communities can be up to 75% higher than across the
population as a whole, although substantial differences were found
among individual ethnic minority groups.
Local authorities, housing associations, as well as charitable
organisations such as Shelter can be contacted for help and support
on housing-related issues. However, specialist help and information
about housing law can be sought from:
- Housing advice centres;
- Solicitors with expertise in housing law;
- Legal advice centres;
- Shelter; and
- Citizens Advice Bureaux.
There are some specialist organisations that can assist with
housing issues. Positive Action in Housing Ltd (PAiH) is a
Scotland wide charity working with communities, housing providers,
voluntary organisations and faith groups to help people get an
equal chance to live in good quality, affordable and safe homes.
They offer advice, information and support to people from new
migrant, refugee and ethnic minority communities.
PAiH runs a free, confidential and impartial casework service
for those facing poverty, homelessness, racism or poor housing.
They also have a Hardship Fund and provide emergency shelter and
practical resources for destitute asylum seekers and their
As with many other client groups, finding appropriate childcare
can be a barrier to employment. There can be issues about the cost
and availability of childcare as well as difficulties finding the
kind of childcare parents feel happy about.
Also, as with other client groups, some minority ethnic clients
may not be used to using formal childcare providers and may instead
prefer to rely on informal care given by family and friends. If
this is no longer possible or it does not fit in with their
requirements when the client starts work then there will be a need
to find alternative childcare.
Employability services in Glasgow have taken a variety of
approaches to increasing ethnic minority clients' childcare
- They have worked with local mother and toddler groups to give
information to parents about local childcare facilities.
- They have tried to offer a range of types of childcare support
and to highlight the availability of a range of different
- Another approach has been to source childcare where staff can
speak community languages.
- They have worked with women from the communities to act as
advocates for childcare to try to break down any issues of lack of
trust with formal childcare services.