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Q&A With Alec Regino on Unlocking Opportunities: Talent Beyond Boundaries and the Future of Refugee Labor Mobility
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Q&A With Alec Regino on Unlocking Opportunities: Talent Beyond Boundaries and the Future of Refugee Labor Mobility

April 22, 2024

In today’s interconnected world, the scale of the global refugee crisis demands innovative solutions that go beyond traditional responses like aid and humanitarian resettlement. Refugees around the world possess a wealth of skills and talents, serving as everything from doctors and engineers to skilled trade workers and software developers.

Companies can tap into this diverse pool of talent, drive innovation, and contribute to building more inclusive and resilient communities. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), there are 35.3 million refugees globally, highlighting significant untapped potential. By leveraging this talent, companies can not only fill skills gaps but also create meaningful opportunities for refugees to rebuild their lives. In the United States, the Refugee Admissions Program (RAP) has been a vital, legal pathway for refugees to find safety and opportunities. The program has welcomed 3.2 million individuals since 1980, offering them a chance to contribute to American society and the economy. By creating inclusive work environments, companies can play a crucial role in empowering refugees and driving positive change.

Talent Beyond Boundaries (TBB) is an organization that prioritizes refugee labor mobility as a complementary pathway, offering safe and regular avenues for displaced people to access skilled migration opportunities. TBB collaborates closely with governments, the private sector, impacted communities, and refugee-serving organizations to facilitate this process. Their work provides displaced individuals with the opportunity to rebuild their lives with dignity and purpose, utilizing their skills to contribute meaningfully to society.

Recently, the UN Global Compact Network USA spoke with Alec Regino, Communications Manager at Talent Beyond Boundaries (TBB), to delve into their work on refugee labor mobility.

Interview Questions:

1. Can you provide an overview of TBB’s mission and how it addresses the global refugee crisis?

Talent Beyond Boundaries champions the notion that talent knows no boundaries. Our mission is focused on bridging the gap between skilled refugees and global labor shortages. By doing so, we address the dual challenge of the global refugee crisis and the need for skilled labor. Our approach offers displaced individuals the opportunity to relocate safely for work and live with dignity and purpose, while simultaneously helping countries and businesses fill critical skills gaps.

2. What inspired TBB to focus on refugee labor mobility as a complementary pathway?

In 2016, TBB’s co-founder John Cameron was inspired after crossing paths with an accomplished Syrian refugee displaced by the Syrian civil war. Seeing the difficulties refugees faced in using their skills following displacement, he felt that there was potential in creating an “online jobs marketplace” for skilled refugees as an additional solution to the refugee crisis. Simultaneously, U.S. attorneys Mary Louise Cohen and Bruce Cohen began working on a similar idea. The three joined forces, and Talent Beyond Boundaries was born. TBB recognized that there was a critical gap in the global migration system: Millions of displaced people possess valuable skills and experience, yet they face significant barriers to opportunities abroad due to their status. TBB pioneered this approach to connect skilled refugees with global labor markets, offering a solution that benefits individuals, employers, and host communities alike.

3. How does TBB work with governments, the private sector, impacted communities, and refugee-serving organizations to open safe, regular pathways for displaced people?

TBB adopts a collaborative, multi-stakeholder approach to create safe, regular pathways for skilled migration. We partner with private sector entities to identify employment opportunities, engage with refugee-serving organizations for candidate support, and liaise with impacted communities to ensure a holistic support system. This ecosystem of collaboration is essential for making skilled refugee migration a reality.

4. What are some success stories or examples of how TBB’s approach has benefited refugees, employers, and host countries?

Our initiatives have led to life-changing opportunities for refugees while also benefiting employers and host countries. From engineers finding employment in Australia to IT professionals contributing to Canada’s tech sector, each story underscores the impact of matching talent with opportunity. For example, a refugee who grew up in Lebanon had over a decade of experience working as an accountant for international firms like Deloitte and PWC. Due to his refugee status, his ability to grow his profession or travel for opportunities was continuously curtailed. He rebuilt his career with permanent status in Australia thanks to Talent Beyond Boundaries. 

5. How does TBB collaborate with other organizations and stakeholders to expand its impact and promote a more equitable system?

TBB believes in strengthening networks to create systemic change. We collaborate with other organizations, governments, and the private sector to share knowledge and scale our impact. Through collective efforts, we aim to foster a more equitable system where skilled refugees are recognized as valuable assets to global labor markets. Our work with governments and UN bodies have been fruitful across the globe: TBB is a trusted partner of the Governments of Canada, Australia, and the UK in implementing their pilots for displaced talent mobility. In Europe, TBB collaborates with the IOM and other key partners to facilitate the skilled migration of displaced talent. In the United States, TBB’s advocacy work has led to changes in the U.S. employment visa process to accommodate refugees and stateless people. 

6. What are some key challenges that TBB faces in its work, and how does it overcome them?

Navigating international recruitment and visa complexities presents significant challenges. Refugees face numerous unique challenges, such as: How do you submit a visa application without a valid passport? How does an employer check for references when the candidate’s past employers no longer operate due to instability or violence? TBB addresses these by promoting pathways that keep the challenges of refugees in mind, educating stakeholders about the benefits of hiring refugees in the labor market, and providing hands-on support throughout the migration process. Overcoming these barriers requires persistent advocacy, innovation, and the development of scalable models for refugee labor mobility.

7. What are TBB’s future plans and goals for expanding its impact and reach?

Looking ahead, TBB is committed to expanding its reach and impact. Our goal is to establish refugee labor mobility as a standardized global practice, ensuring that more displaced people can safely migrate and utilize their skills. By creating permanent pathways that recognize the challenges refugees face, displaced people are empowered to use their own skills to lift themselves and their families out of displacement. By continuously innovating, we aim to create a world where everyone can work and live with dignity and purpose.

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