Nigerians in Wales Have a Diverse Career Paths to Explore

Nigerians in Wales may find sought-after job opportunities in various sectors, including healthcare, education, technology, finance, and skilled trades. In this report Ugo Aliogo, examines the experiences of Nigerians living and working in Wales, United Kingdom and other issues. Excerpts.

 Alfred Oyekoya MBE, is the Executive Director, BAME Mental Health Support (BMHS), a not-for-profit organisation based in Wales that is focused on education and advocacy. Oyekoya on his part understands the structure of the Labour Laws in Wales especially as it concerns the black community majorly Nigerians.

In Wales, Labour Laws uphold principles of equality and fairness in employment, including protection against discrimination based on race or nationality. However, challenges persist for the black community, including Nigerians, due to systemic barriers and unconscious bias.

Oyekoya remarked that some key considerations include ensuring equal employment opportunities, protection from discrimination, recognition of worker rights, and fostering diversity and inclusion.

He explained that effective implementation, awareness, and proactive measures are essential to address these challenges and create supportive work environments where individuals from all backgrounds feel valued and empowered, adding that BAME Mental Health Support (BMHS) advocates for equality, diversity, and inclusion.

He noted that as an organisation, they are committed to contributing to this ongoing dialogue and driving positive change in Wales’s labour landscape, particularly concerning the rights and opportunities for the ethnic minorities.

According to him, “The assertion that Labour Laws in Wales marginalizes the black community, particularly Nigerians, warrants careful consideration. While Labour Laws aim to ensure equality and fairness in employment, systemic barriers and unconscious bias can disproportionately affect ethnic minorities, including Nigerians. Evaluating whether Labour Laws disproportionately impact the black community compared to other ethnicities in Wales necessitates a thorough examination of relevant data.

“Published Labour market analysis for protected groups in Wales and the UK from April 2004 to March 2021, employment rates were highest among individuals from the White ethnic group and from the ‘other ethnic group’ category. Employment rates were lowest amongst individuals from the Black ethnic group. The unemployment rate for Black, Asian and minority ethnic groups in Wales has been volatile but consistently higher than the rate for White people over the last 16 years. However, the gap has narrowed considerably. Further data on employment disparities, experiences of discrimination, and access to justice are essential for evaluating the impact of Labour Laws on different communities. Factors such as historical context, socioeconomic dynamics, and cultural perceptions may also influence outcomes. It is crucial to recognize that challenges faced by the black community may intersect with other forms of discrimination, such as gender or class.

“Comparative analysis with other nationalities living in Wales could provide insights into broader patterns of inequality and discrimination within the labour market. This requires comprehensive research and dialogue involving stakeholders from diverse backgrounds.

“Ultimately, addressing marginalization within the context of Labour Laws demands proactive measures, including enhancing enforcement mechanisms, promoting diversity and inclusion initiatives, and amplifying the voices of affected communities. As an advocate for equality, diversity, and inclusion, I am committed to advancing these efforts and fostering a more equitable and inclusive society for all residents of Wales, irrespective of nationality or background.”

Nigerians in Wales

 In terms of the ratio of Nigerians who get employed in companies and organisations in Wales, in comparisons to those who are relocated to Wales from Nigeria, Oyekoya said obtaining precise data on the ratio of Nigerians employed in companies and organizations in Wales compared to those who relocate from Nigeria is challenging due to the lack of specific statistics readily available.

He argued that factors such as varying immigration statuses, employment sectors, and individual circumstances contribute to the complexity of the comparison.

His viewpoint is that employment statistics typically capture individuals already residing in Wales, regardless of their nationality or country of origin, adding that these figures may include Nigerians who have immigrated to Wales for employment opportunities or other reasons.

He maintained that distinguishing between Nigerians who relocate specifically for employment purposes and those who were already residing in Wales prior to seeking employment can be difficult, therefore data on the number of Nigerians employed by companies and organizations in Wales may not accurately reflect the proportion of Nigerians among the total workforce due to limitations in ethnicity-based reporting or the reluctance of individuals to disclose their nationality.

According to him, “Employment patterns can vary across sectors and regions within Wales, influencing the representation of Nigerians in different industries and organizations. Factors such as discrimination, language barriers, and credential recognition challenges may also impact employment outcomes for Nigerians compared to other groups.

“However, there is an Employability Anchor Programme, under the UK Government Shared Prosperity Fund that brings multiple delivery partners together to provide a more holistic offer to individuals and create pathways into key work area through the provision of employability support, skills and training and our role includes addressing the unique challenges faced by ethnic minorities in accessing employment opportunities. This is actively supported by the Welsh Government and local authorities.”

Salary Disparity

Salary disparities in payment structure between a white Welsh and a Nigeria Immigrant is one of those assumptions that the Nigerians back home would like to understand or get informed about especially what the actually position looks like.

The BMHS ED answer to this puzzle is that salary disparities between white Welsh individuals and Nigerian immigrants in Wales can stem from various factors, including differences in education, experience, and systemic biases.

He revealed that despite laws prohibiting discrimination, immigrants may face challenges like being concentrated in lower-wage sectors and encountering cultural and credential recognition barriers.

Oyekoya suggestion is that addressing these disparities requires proactive measures such as fair recruitment practices, cultural competency training, and regular pay equity audits, adding that in BMHS, they advocate for policies that promote diversity and inclusion are essential to fostering a more equitable work environment where all employees, regardless of nationality, are fairly compensated for their contributions.

Immigration Law

For the record, it is important to state that Wales is part of the United Kingdom, which is a fully independent sovereign state. However, the ‘United Kingdom’ is made up of a political union between four nations, England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, and these countries are in their own right and have varying degrees of autonomy.

Oyekoya noted that Immigration policies are set at the national level rather than devolved to individual nations like Wales, therefore, there isn’t a distinction between the Welsh Immigration Law and the broader UK immigration framework.

He posited that the UK’s immigration system is governed by various Acts of Parliament, regulations, and policies that dictate who can enter and remain in the country, as well as the conditions under which they can do so, adding that this includes rules for work visas, family reunification, asylum, and settlement.

In his words, “It is worth noting that the Welsh government does have some influence over certain aspects of immigration, particularly in areas such as integration, community cohesion, and support for refugees and asylum seekers within Wales. For instance, Wales ambition is to be Nation of Sanctuary that continually demonstrates a welcoming attitude toward refugees and asylum seekers.

“The level of acceptance of black immigrants, including Nigerians, who relocate to Wales varies depending on factors such as individual experiences, community attitudes, and broader societal dynamics. While many Welsh communities are welcoming and inclusive, instances of discrimination, prejudice, and xenophobia may still occur. Black immigrants may encounter challenges related to cultural differences, language barriers, and stereotypes. Additionally, systemic inequalities and socio-economic disparities can impact their integration and acceptance. Efforts to promote diversity, cultural awareness, and community cohesion are essential for fostering greater acceptance and inclusivity for black immigrants in Wales. By promoting dialogue, education, and understanding, Welsh society can strive towards creating a more welcoming environment for all residents, regardless of their background or nationality.”

Job Opportunities

Nigerians in Wales may find sought-after job opportunities in various sectors, including healthcare, education, technology, finance, and skilled trades. In healthcare, roles such as nurses, doctors, and healthcare assistants are in demand, while in education, teaching positions and roles in academic support services offer avenues for employment.

He espoused that the technology sector presents opportunities in software development, cybersecurity, and data analysis, noting that financial services offer positions in accounting, finance, and project management.

He hinted that skilled trades such as construction, engineering, and manufacturing also provide job opportunities, noting that Nigerians often pursue careers in fields where they have relevant qualifications and experience, such as healthcare, business, engineering, and Information and Communication Technology (ICT).

He added: “Entrepreneurial ventures and self-employment can be attractive options, allowing individuals to leverage their skills and expertise in various industries. Overall, Nigerians in Wales have a diverse range of career paths to explore based on their interests, qualifications, and aspirations.”

The Job Fair

Recently, BHMS organised a job fair in Swansea with the aim of connecting job seekers with employers in key sectors such as healthcare, education, technology, finance, and skilled trades. Employers from various industries participated, offering positions ranging from entry-level to senior roles. The fair emphasized diversity and inclusion, with efforts to attract employers committed to providing equal opportunities for all attendees. There were 165 attendees also supported by local businesses, multinational corporations, government agencies, and non-profit organizations as part of the Pathways to work initiatives.

Oyekoya said the job fair successfully facilitated networking, interviews, and recruitment processes, resulting in a significant number of attendees securing gainful employment opportunities, while pointing out that ...-event evaluations and feedback mechanisms were utilized to assess the fair’s effectiveness and identify areas for improvement for future events.

He said: “A notable highlight of the job fair was the participation of individuals who had received support from our organization over the years. Many of them, now holding distinguished roles as consultants and senior managers in the NHS, made the effort to travel to Swansea. Despite some enduring a round trip of over ten hours, they shared their lived experiences and insights, serving as a source of inspiration. Additionally, they provided one-on-one support for Curriculum Vitae (CVs) and job applications, contributing to the event’s success.

“The birth of our employability support initiative was driven by the heartfelt desire to nurture a community with robust mental well-being  I observed a recurring theme that recognised that a job serves not only as a means of income but also as a symbol of dignity for many individuals, Particularly for those constrained by visa limitations and lacking access to public funds, the ability to secure employment becomes a crucial lifeline, shielding families from the dire consequences of poverty and homelessness.

“In response to this poignant realization, I launched a one-on-one weekly support sessions as drop-in session back then in 2011. These sessions aimed to guide individuals in either venturing into entrepreneurship or navigating the job application process. Over time, these drop-in sessions organically evolved into a thriving job fair, a transformation made possible through the heartening collaboration of employers and individuals with success stories, all eager to give back and uplift others.

“Currently, our outreach extends its unwavering assistance to over 1500 individuals every month. This support spans a wide array of challenges, including employment, immigration, and socio-economic inequalities, all of which can profoundly impact their mental well-being.

“Over time, the job fair has evolved into a highly anticipated event within Swansea and the surrounding communities, drawing participation from a diverse range of employers and job seekers alike. The success of the job fair is reflected in the meaningful connections made between employers and job seekers, resulting in numerous job placements and career advancements. Additionally, the fair has garnered positive feedback from both employers and attendees, underscoring its value in facilitating employment opportunities and fostering community engagement. Continuous efforts are made to improve and innovate the job fair, ensuring it remains a vital resource for job seekers and a platform for businesses to recruit top talent and contribute to the economic growth and vitality of the region.”

The Nigeria Student

Recently, there was a media report that Swansea university reinstated a Nigerian student named Emmanuel Okohoboh’s who was disqualified for alleged late fees payment in 2023. When the issue was brought to the table of BMHS ED, he took up and fought to ensure that justice was served. 

It is unfortunate that Okohoboh had to endure the loss of his father, and despite his determination, he encountered unnecessary obstacles at Swansea University. The fact that he managed to raise his outstanding £300 through the sale of landed property to complete his payment before the deadline shows his commitment to his education.

Oyekoya stated that the initial denial of his enrolment for reasons beyond comprehension and control is deeply troubling. His attempts to seek guidance and appeal, only to be met with threats and obstacles, further compounded his distress, adding that the lack of access to public funds and inability to work without enrolment proof added to his desperation.

Continuing he said: “Emmanuel’s situation illustrates the importance of empathy and support within educational institutions.  It was disheartening that despite fulfilling his obligations, he faced such difficulties. His story serves as a reminder of the need for more transparent and compassionate processes in academic institutions to avoid putting students through unnecessary hardships.

“We had to escalate the case to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education, and following investigation, the University with £1000 compensation but if only they have an idea of the avoidable consequences of their decision on the student.

“The reinstatement indicates a commitment to fairness and due process in handling such cases. It also highlights the university’s recognition of the importance of supporting students, including those from diverse backgrounds to access education without undue barriers. This action may reflect positively on the university’s reputation for inclusivity and responsiveness to student concerns. However, it also underscores the need for clear communication and transparent policies to prevent similar issues in the future. The issue is avoidable and the university could have prevented it from degenerating into what it was before the student was reinstated and compensated.”

The Black Community

Oyekoya expressed confidence that in assessing the Welsh government’s efforts to protect the interests of the black community, particularly Nigerians, progress is apparent but varies in its scope and impact.

His argument is that legislative initiatives aimed at combating discrimination and promoting equality have been implemented, giving a sense of commitment to addressing systemic issues. However, challenges persist in ensuring effective implementation and enforcement of these policies, often due to resource constraints, institutional barriers, and lingering prejudices.

He asserted that while strides have been made in raising awareness and fostering dialogue on racial equality, disparities in areas such as employment, education, and healthcare underscore the need for sustained action, adding that collaborative efforts involving government, community organizations, and stakeholders are essential to drive meaningful change and advance the interests of the black community in Wales.

He added that continued advocacy, policy refinement, and targeted interventions are crucial to building upon existing progress and fostering a more inclusive and equitable society.

“While progress has been made in passing legislation and implementing policies to protect the interests of the black community, including Nigerians, in Wales, challenges persist. The Equality Act, The Anti-Racist Wales Action Plan and other initiatives promoting diversity and inclusion demonstrate a commitment to addressing systemic inequalities. However, there is a need for greater attention to the specific needs and experiences of the black community, including targeted interventions to address discrimination and promote equal opportunities. Collaborative approaches involving government, community organizations, and stakeholders are essential to drive meaningful change and ensure that legislative measures translate into tangible improvements in the lives of black individuals in Wales,” he said.

Mental Health

As an expert in this space, Oyekoya said the present situation of mental health in Wales and the UK reflects a complex landscape characterized by increasing demand for services, stigma reduction efforts, and ongoing challenges in access and provision of care.

He remarked that the mental health services in Wales and the UK offer a range of interventions, including medication, therapy, counselling, and community support programmes, noting that while these interventions have been helpful for many patients, access barriers, long wait times, and disparities in service provision persist, particularly for marginalized communities.

According to him, “Efforts to integrate mental health care into primary care settings and expand community-based support services aim to improve accessibility and promote early intervention. However, resource constraints and workforce shortages continue to strain the mental health system. Addressing these challenges requires sustained investment, multi-sectoral collaboration, and a comprehensive approach that prioritizes prevention, early intervention, and holistic support for individuals experiencing mental health difficulties.

“However, the time for substantive main legislation change is now imperative!  For more than five years, the Independent Mental Health Act Review’s recommendations for modernizing the Mental Health Act have gone unimplemented. Despite extensive consultations, legislative screenings, white paper, draft bill, and scrutiny reports, the anticipated new legislation is still elusive.”