Tongue-tied UK failing to capitalise on skills of migrant workers

Jul 10 2006 by Nic Paton Print This Article

Britain's economy could be missing out on the skills of thousands of migrant workers from the eight European Union accession countries because of their lack of English language skills, a new report has suggested.

The study from the Learning and Skills Network explored the learning and skills needs of so-called A8 migrants Ė workers from EU accession countries registered under the British Home Office's EU Worker Registration Scheme.

The majority were found to be highly qualified and skilled but many were failing to find jobs that matched their experience and qualifications because of their poor English skills.

Instead they were caught in the trap of low paid, low skilled and temporary employment.

Many migrants saw improving their English as the key to getting a better job or improving their qualifications.

But they were facing complex hurdles when it came to finding courses that met their needs.

The study suggested that when migrants who travelled independently first came to the UK their immediate concern was finding accommodation and a job to meet their living costs.

Once in a job, many migrants worked shifts and were poorly paid. This left them with little free time to find out about or attend English language classes.

Transport problems also often made it especially difficult for migrants living in rural areas to attend courses.

Many migrants also did seasonal or temporary jobs, and had to move around the country to find employment.

As a result, some were forced to drop out of a course before completing it or gaining a qualification.

Darshan Sachdev, research manager for the Learning and Skills Network, said: "Migrant workers are a valuable asset to our growing economy. To unlock their potential the relevant agencies need to take a joined up approach that addresses the multiplicity of issues faced by these people."