From education to employment

Saving money, upskilling the workforce and supporting rehabilitation – Why apprenticeships for prisoners just makes sense

David Phillips, Managing Director – City & Guilds

Last week’s announcement that prisoners will have the opportunity to study for an apprenticeship during their sentence is news that we should all celebrate.

It is hugely encouraging to see Dominic Raab and Nadhim Zahawi taking on board feedback from the education sector and making a morally correct decision that has the potential to offer huge benefits across society.

For employers, this decision should also be a cause for celebration. As recently reported in our Great Jobs research, many vital industries across the country are experiencing acute skills shortages. Giving prisoners the opportunity to study for an apprenticeship in industries that are struggling to recruit will open up a new potential source of talent to take on roles in these critical industries.

While some employers are hesitant to employ prisoners, there is encouraging data that demonstrates that employers do widely report positive experiences, with 86% saying that prisoners settle into work well with colleagues and 82% saying that they perform well in their role.  

As we welcome this announcement, it will be essential for government to work closely with employers and training experts to develop clear processes to ensure that apprentices are supported to complete their training and that employers are incentivised effectively to support them in their roles.

It will be vital for the government to build relationships with employers and emphasise the benefits of employing prisoners to encourage them to take on apprentices who are currently serving sentences. This will mean communicating with HR and hiring managers to build relationships and involving organisations that specialise in training delivery to ensure that processes are well mapped out to provide businesses with employees. 

There is also ample scope to expand this scheme further. At present it is being launched on a trial basis to 100 prisoners across England before being expanded, but current plans are for the offer to be restricted to open prisons only. While it may not be practical for prisoners in more secure facilities to undertake apprenticeships, making pre-apprenticeships available to people in these facilities could still offer the opportunity to help them develop skills to improve their employment prospects on release.

Given the positive impact that we know training and education can have on reducing rates of reoffending, we would encourage the government to consider extending this scheme to more prisons in the near future to allow these opportunities to have the maximum impact.

City & Guilds have long advocated for prisoners to be given the opportunity to pursue apprenticeships to develop valuable skills and expertise to help them succeed in their careers upon release. We firmly believe that training, education and career development support are vital for individuals, for employers and for our wider society, and decisions such as this one to make training more widely available are hugely encouraging.

David Phillips, Managing Director – City & Guilds

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