Matching the skills of asylum seekers and refugees to volunteering opportunities

Award Information

AHRC ref: AH/P005160/1
Discipline: Cultural and Museum Studies
Funding opportunity: Research Grant
Areas of Impact: A wide social (developing new modes of work beyond but also within HEIs), cultural, policy and economic impact, at regional, national and international levels.
Lead RO: Newcastle University
Region: North East

The West End Refugee Service (WERS) worked with Roots and Wings, Newcastle University and Teesside University in a pilot that allowed WERS to create a website that could match the vast array of skills and interests of asylum seekers and refugees with volunteering opportunities out in the community.

Skillsmatch is just one of the many interesting and successful innovation pilots awarded through the AHRC funded Creative Fuse North East project and was created in close consultation with a group of asylum seekers and refugees.

Three workshops were held in 2018 which looked into the impressive range of skills that asylum seekers and refugees in Newcastle held - from welding, gardening and teaching to special needs support, healthcare work, translation and economics - as well their interests and motivations. The workshops also considered volunteering opportunities available in the Newcastle area, including community garden volunteering, assisting in language teaching and illustration.

From these workshops the Skillsmatch website was born.

Skillsmatch workshop
Participants at Skillsmatch workshop. Credit: Creative Fuse North East

It’s now live and has already led to a number of successful volunteer opportunities being filled and WERS continues to engage with a wide variety of local organisations to expand the list of opportunities and skillsets required as the on the site.

Asylum seekers and refugees have repeatedly told WERS that volunteering has a most beneficial effect on their mental health, well-being and English language skills.  One of the outcomes of the workshops was to show that many wish to give back to and connect with the local community, and Skillsmatch is a way of helping make this happen.

Skillsmatch workshop
Volunteering at Scotswood Garden in Newcastle. Credit: Creative Fuse North East

My volunteering through Skillsmatch has given me the chance to meet new people, increased confidence to talk to different people and an insight into different types of workplace culture’

Quote from Skillsmatch volunteer

Next steps

The Skillsmatch project is now an integral part of WERS’ Volunteer Project. WERS has just received a 3 year grant from the Big Lottery Reaching Communities Fund to enlarge its digital work with refugees and asylum seekers – a huge boost for the organisation’s future and only possible because of Creative Fuse and the AHRC.

‘Without the Creative Fuse project it is very unlikely that WERS would have been in a position to develop the website, having neither spare funding to pay for it nor the technical skills amongst its staff team. WERS is now in a position to apply to different funding bodies whose grant criteria WERS’ core activities would otherwise not have met.’

About the Creative Fuse North East

The AHRC funded Creative Fuse North East and creative or cultural organisations from across the Creative, Digital and IT project, among other things, awarded Innovation Pilot grants of up to £5,000 and £25,000 to SMEs, freelancers (CDIT) sector to team up with university researchers and propose ground-breaking projects.

Thirty-one projects were funded in total, view these projects on the Innovation Project List webpage.

For more information on Skillsmatch please visit the website: www.skillsmatch.info

  1. To request an interview, or for more information about the Creative Fuse North East project please contact Lyndsay Short at Newcastle University Press Office on 01912 085669. Visit the website at: www.creativefusene.org.uk
  2. Earlier in the project, Creative Fuse North East carried out a survey of more than 500 firms to better understand the state of the Creative, Digital and IT (CDIT) sector in the North East. It found the turnover of more than half of businesses surveyed grew in 2015/16. It also highlighted that employment in the region’s creative industries grew faster than in the UK as a whole, with a 22.6% increase from 2001 and 2015, compared to 19.5% nationally.
  3. Creative Fuse North East is a unique collaboration between Newcastle, Northumbria, Durham, Sunderland and Teesside universities and is funded jointly by the universities and the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), Arts Council England (ACE) and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).
  4. The current phase of the project runs until March 2019. It is a multi-disciplinary, multi stakeholder action research project which explores the social, economic and innovation value of the Creative Digital and IT (CDIT) sector in the region. Alongside this research strand, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), Arts Council England and European Regional Development Funds are being used to support direct engagement with creative freelancers and SMEs in the sector, developing innovative collaborations and approaches and promoting economic growth.
  5. Creative Fuse North East was launched in November 2016 and its aim is to ensure the CDIT sector in the region becomes more resilient, grows faster and creates more and better jobs in a sustainable digital economy.

Associated image: Dalia and the cafe ladies. Credit: Creative Fuse North East