At a time when the impact of COVID-19 has created numerous challenges for the probation sector's workforce, it has never been more vital to support the continuing growth of skilled entry routes into a career in such a demanding setting.
Ministry of Justice (MoJ) are one of the leading organisations who are part of a growing network of Skills for Justice members, working with partners, collaborating to curate strategic high-quality workforce development solutions for the probation sector.
Members since 2005, MoJ work closely with Skills for Justice leading workforce and vocational learning developers to review, improve and create qualifications and development programmes, including the recent review of the SFJ Awards Level 3 Diploma in the Management and Care of Individuals in the Custodial Environment, which was undertaken to facilitate the development of a Level 3 Custody and Detention Apprenticeship in Wales.
Over the course of the partnership, MoJ and the Skills for Justice team identified the requirement to create a standard of learning fit for the Custody and Detention workforce, to increase skills and knowledge of those in critical roles.
Rachel Henson, Talent & Capability Consultant– Apprenticeships Team, MoJ commented:
“We recognised the need to develop more professional on-the-job learning, utilising available funding from the Apprenticeship levy to improve the quality of training and skills amongst the workforce. A thorough review of the L3 Qualification was fundamental to underpin the development of the Welsh Apprenticeship Framework to align to the Custody and Detention Apprenticeship Standard in England and provide a range of training options to grow the workforce.
The objective was to improve and standardise learning for the role nationally, with Skills for Justice Technical Specialist Cathy Gallagher and Technical Consultant Sharon Wilton leading the project development of both elements, and further support provided by their sister organisation SFJ Awards.
Rachel added: “We acknowledged that without a consistent, more professional standard of training across the system, we would have unexperienced staff, poor retention due to lack of support, and a workforce dealing with critical and ever-changing challenges without the skills to do so, effectively.
Through Skills for Justice carrying out the work as part of our strategic membership, this enabled us to deliver a pilot scheme for volunteer apprentices, where we found there was more support from mentors and coaches who worked with learners. Subsequently this hopefully will lead to improved skills development and better retention.”
Richard Turrell – Talent and Capability Consultant, MoJ commented:
“This qualification was previously delivered in-house, whereas now, having worked with Skills for Justice, this training is recognised as a professional high-quality qualification, across the whole Custody and Detention environment, on a national scale.”
The project required consultation with the wider Prison sector (public and private) to establish if the proposed structure would meet the needs of their learners and employers.
Skills for Justice membership enabled the successful collaboration between the MoJ and other organisations and bodies across the sector through networking opportunities and steering groups. This required exceptional support and project management from the team to bring several organisations together working to the strictest of deadlines.
Rachel said: “It was in our interest to get as many organisations involved as possible and that required experienced facilitation to guide the project forward at pace. We had tight deadlines because, like everyone, we’re working to Government targets for Apprenticeships. The Skills for Justice team were invaluable to us to deliver this result.”
The project has already had a considerable positive influence on the workforce and sector. Rachel explains:
“Further impact we have recognised is that staff who have been through the apprenticeship feel more valued, have more transferrable skills and we are hoping that they will progress through their careers in this sector, we will continue to monitor their development as part of our strategy. We have found that during our initial pilot the support that the apprenticeship coaches provided has meant that we were able to retain staff that may previously have left the service.
The project also required management of a Governance Group, where lessons were learned quickly, and rapidly applied to help keep the project on track. The governance group allowed stakeholders from custody and detention settings to come together to share best practice and keep up to date with changes within the Apprenticeship sector.
When we launched our early adopters’ campaign in November 2019 the support from the governance group helped to ensure that practices and policies were correct and in line for a go live date.
NB the governance group did not really start until after we had started our initial pilot group. The trailblazer ran into the governance group as the group felt it would be beneficial to monitor how the C&D standard was rolled out between different stakeholders.”
As Skills for Justice members, the Ministry of Justice form an integral part of a widening collaborative network, working across key sector bodies and employers to develop a highly skilled, sustainable probation, criminal justice, policing, fire & rescue, workforce of the future.