A GROUP of refugees joined together in Glasgow to celebrate their graduation from a trailblazing new hospitality training scheme.

Cabinet Secretary for Communities Aileen Campbell presented the refugees with certificates at a special event to celebrate their graduation from the Diageo Learning for Life programme.

She said: “Congratulations to all the graduates of this six-week immersive course in hospitality training. This is a fantastic achievement and the start of an excellent opportunity to take valuable professional skills into the hospitality sector in Scotland.

“This project is an innovative example of how the private sector can play their part in supporting people who have come to Scotland as refugees into employment. Refugees have a wealth of experience and I believe they should be welcomed, supported and integrated into our communities from day one of arrival.”

The 11 graduates, whose countries of origin include Algeria, Eritrea, Iran, Russia and Sudan, were also able to enhance their English language skills, including putting those skills to test in work experience situations at a number of Glasgow hotels and bars. The graduates will now be supported as they seek full-time employment, with The Springboard Charity working to match them to vacancies in the hospitality sector.

One of the Diageo Learning for Life graduates, Neda Nazari from Iran, said the course had made an enormous difference to her life. She said: “It was a fantastic new experience for me which improved my confidence as well as my grasp of the English language.

“The programme has opened my eyes to the world of hospitality, which as well as helping me find a job, has also had an impact on my personal life. I’ve learned lots of information about responsible alcohol service, food hygiene and licensing laws. I now have new knowledge that I can share with my friends.”

Nazari is now seeking part-time work in the hospitality sector while she pursues further studies in travel and tourism.

Aileen Keyes, head of Diageo’s Learning for Life programme in Europe, said: “We are committed to building thriving communities everywhere we operate around the world and that means including everyone in the community.

“Our Learning for Life programme has created life-changing opportunities for hundreds of unemployed Scots, and we are extremely proud to now be able to extend these opportunities to people who have sought sanctuary here in Scotland. The hospitality industry can offer amazing careers and it is great to see these opportunities being opened up to refugees.”

Delivered by leading hospitality industry charity, The Springboard Charity, supported by Scottish Refugee Council, the initiative was established to provide specific employability skills to refugees.