With OLASS 5 set to kick off in Q1 of 2018, education and training providers involved in offender learning will shortly be looking to write their bids for the new contracts. The procurement process is expected to broadly follow the recommendations in the Government’s 2016 White Paper, Prison Safety and Reform, and so it is perhaps a good time to remind ourselves of what was contained in that report, relating to education and training.
One of the big focusses in the White Paper is the desire to bring reoffending rates down, with the report stating that almost half of all prisoners go on to reoffend within a year, and that the cost of reoffending in general is around £15 billion to society every year. However, since there is evidence to show that rates of reoffending can be reduced if offenders gain employment upon release, much of the proposals in the report are geared to giving prisoners the best chance possible to get into work at the end of their sentence.
A key part of the proposals is to grant a greater degree of empowerment to prison governors, including provision of education and training. The report expressed the hope that by devolving this issue to the local level, governors will be in a better position to ensure that what is taught in their prison is aligned with the needs of employers in the prison region, which in turn will mean that offenders will have a better chance of gaining employment when they leave.
For governors, this means both the opportunity and the responsibility to align skills provision with labour market demand, in order to give offenders the best chance possible of getting employment in the region upon release. But it also means that organisations which provide education and training services to prisons also now have a much bigger incentive to demonstrate how they can match their provision with local labour market demand.
In terms of the actual bidding for the OLASS 5 contracts (and of course the actual delivery of provision), what this means is that providers will need to demonstrate how they can respond to regional demand in the prison region. In fact, Prison Safety and Reform is explicit that this is the end goal:
“Giving governors greater autonomy over decisions made in prisons will allow them to target training and work in prisons to match more closely the needs of the local labour market [my emphasis].”
But this raises the question of how this can be achieved. A big part of the solution must be the use of granular Labour Market Insight (LMI), since this is the quickest and most effective way of determining the needs of employers. But notice the emphasis on granular. It is not just data, as such, that can solve this problem, but rather data that can identify specific industrial and occupational trends at the level of the prison region. Again, Prison Safety and Reform is fairly explicit about this local aspect:
“Governors will be encouraged to work with local employers and use data on the local labour market gaps to choose the right vocational training to help offenders into employment…[my emphasis].”
As this is likely to be a critical issue in the OLASS 5 process, we will be holding a free webinar on 11th December where we’ll be looking at this in more detail. I’ll be joined on that by Rob Mills, who is a Specialist Education & Justice Advisor, and who led the LMI project as part of the Coates Review into Prison Education, which in turn formed the basis for Prison Safety & Reform. The webinar is free to join, and so if you want to find out more about what is likely to come up in the procurement process, and how LMI can help shape the way you think about your bid writing, please do feel free to join us by registering here.