Meet the Tenant: Plymouth Refugee Opportunities

Through our Meet the Tenants feature we hope you’re seeing the wide variety of businesses that partner with us here at the Millfields Trust. In previous blogs, we’ve introduced you to Plymouth’s Number 1 Taxi Service, Easy Cars and Carlton Cleaning but today we’d like to introduce the Plymouth Refugee Opportunities (PRO) Project.

Plymouth Refugee Opportunities is a project set up by Odils Learning Foundation working in collaboration with START (Students and Refugees Together), together they support refugees with housing, employment and community integration. We caught up with Business Engagement Coordinator Stuart Foren to learn more about what they have been up to in the community.

What is your name, project name and how long have you been in business?

My name is Stuart Foren. I am employed by Odils Learning Foundation, an established charity of 21 years in Plymouth. I am a Business Engagement Coordinator and Employment Mentor on the Plymouth Refugee Opportunities (PRO) project. PRO is a service for newly recognised refugees in Plymouth. We help to prepare, organise and support refugees with housing, employment and community integration. Our partner on the project is with another Millfields Trust tenant, START (Students and Refugees Together). We also collaborate with other support agencies across the city.

Meet the Tenant: Plymouth Refugee Opportunities, Millfields Trust

How are you connected to the Millfields Trust? Why did you get an office in MT?

The decision was taken to get an office in MT for a number of reasons. For example, our office is specifically used for employment mentoring and business engagement and due to the work MT do to support Social Enterprises in Plymouth, as well as their ethical business practices, we felt MT would be a perfect fit for our operation. Another important factor was that START are based within the same building.

What does an average day look like for your project? What happens? What time does your day start and when does it finish?

There is not particularly an ‘average’ day on the project. Due to the individual, tailored level of support we offer to participants on the project, each day can be very different. This being said, typically, a day starts at 08.30 and finishes at 4. The day will often include multiple 1-2-1 meetings with clients, assisting them with varied level of support, including but not limited to: CV writing, interview techniques, attending university open days, careers fairs, job interviews, as well as arranging and attending doctors appointments, helping clients move house, visiting clients in their homes to help with any domestic needs, English language support, mental health support, organising and attending events, creating and organising work experience/volunteering opportunities, as well as engaging with and offering support and training to businesses/employers in Plymouth. For example, I was recently requested by Real Ideas Organisation to design and deliver a webinar focusing on refugee employment barriers in the UK, which is something we would like to make available to the wider business community in Plymouth as well.

What types of challenges has your project faced in the past, present and possibly in the future?

Our project has faced, and continues to face, a variety of challenges. For example, working with vulnerable members of society means that developing trusting, working relationships with clients can take time, and unfortunately, due to funding, our project faces certain time constraints. Furthermore, there can still be quite a lot of prejudices held towards refugees throughout the country, Plymouth included, and it is an aim of the project to help break these down.

Meet the Tenant: Plymouth Refugee Opportunities, Millfields Trust

If you could have one thing right now for your project, what would it be?

As a project, we aim to influence future Government legislation surrounding refugee employment support in the UK. Being a dispersal city, we have an opportunity in Plymouth to lead the way in how we welcome and integrate refugees. Therefore, one thing we would like for our project would be for a greater awareness of the additional barriers refugees can face when entering the UK employment market. Therefore, the PRO project is looking to collaborate with any businesses who may be interested in learning more about this topic and supporting refugees into employment. If you are a local business with an employment opportunity, we would love to hear from you (contact information at the end of the article).

Plans for 2023?

Our plan for 2023 is to carry on offering valuable, high levels of support to all of the participants of the PRO project. We truly believe projects/services like PRO are so desperately needed within our city of Plymouth, as well as further afield. We intend on continuing to engage with businesses, organisations, communities and individuals to create greater opportunities for refugees in the community. In doing so, we hope to contribute to the amazing work carried out by other organisations in Plymouth who wish to live in a more inclusive, diverse society.

Meet the Tenant: Plymouth Refugee Opportunities, Millfields Trust

Plans for 2023? What’s the best, or worst business advice you have ever received? Or, what is your business mantra?

I would like to twist this question slightly. Throughout my career, I have received all kinds of good and bad advice/business advice. Some helped, some really did not. However, one of the best pieces of business advice I can give is to not overlook others based on social stigmas or prejudices. Diversity within the workplace has a great host of benefits and I implore businesses to think about refugees and diversity when reviewing their own practices.

Plymouth Refugee Opportunities (PRO) links:

Stuart Foren, Business Engagement Coordinator/Employment Mentor, Plymouth Refugee Opportunities (PRO): / 07759 522050

Odils Learning Foundation:

START (Students and Refugees Together):

Plymouth Refugee Opportunities (PRO):

If you’re a business in need of office space, light industrial units or possibly just a meeting room, head over to Our Premises today. If you already know exactly what you need then please don’t hesitate to contact the team.