From education to employment

How apprenticeships are offering prisoners a new start

Prison Door

National Apprenticeship Week takes place this week (5-11th February) and it is only the second time prisoners have been included. Entrepreneur James Tweed urges all involved to see the potential in training those with criminal records

Educating and training prisoners could cut crime and reduce the UK’s skills gaps, a King’s Award-winning tech entrepreneur has said. 

James Tweed is CEO of Coracle, based at Chesterton Mill in Cambridge, a company which provides laptops to prisoners. He said it is essential that apprenticeship providers consider working with prisoners. 

James Tweed said,

“Taking on prisoners as apprentices is a golden opportunity to transform lives, help society and increase skills in the workplace,”

“This gives them something practical to work towards, which is a huge part of ensuring they can realise better life outcomes. Including prisoners in Apprenticeship Week is a great step towards reducing reoffending and boosting their employability.” 

Tweed said there are hurdles to be overcome when taking on apprentices from inside a prison but says it is a practical step towards closing the UK’s skills gap and reducing unemployment.

“An important legal change was made in October 2022,” noted Tweed, “When the Ministry of Justice and Department for Education lifted a ban on prisoners undertaking apprenticeships. 

“Since then, major brands such as Greene King, Kier and Timpson have opened their apprenticeship programmes to ex-offenders.

“Day release prisoners can go to work placements but those inside can also undertake training. 

“Having worked in dozens of prisons and met hundreds of prisoners, I think employers might be surprised at just how enthusiastic some prisoners can be when offered the opportunity of a better life.

“It’s vital that prisoners can learn and better themselves during their sentences. 

“Apprenticeships are a great way of doing this, allowing prisoners to boost their chances of employment when they’re released.

“Apprenticeships offer prisoners the chance to use their time in prison for the better. Those who take part in apprenticeships can learn new skills and experience what professional life might look like on the outside when they re-enter the workforce.”

Coracle is one of the very few companies in the UK authorised by the Ministry of Justice to provide inmates with internet-free computers, on which they can complete modules for their apprenticeships

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