From education to employment

Prisoners are to be offered apprenticeships for the first time – Sector Reaction

Mentoring in a cafe

Currently prisoners are unable to take advantage of apprenticeships, which would give them access to gold-standard training they can gain the skills needed to secure work on release – with evidence showing that prison leavers in work are significantly less likely to re-offend.

Polling published last year found that nine out of ten businesses that hire ex-offenders say they are reliable, good at their job, punctual and trustworthy.

The government will change the law so that prisoners at open prisons across England are able to apply for apprenticeship opportunities in vital industries, including hospitality and construction , providing direct routes into jobs with businesses in the community.

The scheme will initially be offered up to a hundred prisoners across England before being rolled out across the wider prison estate.

The scheme will see hundreds of prisoners start an apprenticeship by 2025, with pre-apprenticeship training offered to thousands more – preparing them for a full apprenticeship scheme or a higher skilled job on release.

Rt Hon Dominic Raab MP, Secretary of State for Foreign Commonwealth and Development Affairs

Deputy Prime Minister, Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, Dominic Raab, said:

“We are introducing prisoner apprenticeships to give offenders the skills and training they need to secure a job on release.

“Getting offenders into work offers them a second chance to lead a more positive life and stay on the straight and narrow.

“Breaking the cycle of crime is critical to our mission to drive down reoffending, cut crime and protect the public.”

Nadhim Zahawi, Education Secretary

Secretary of State for Education Nadhim Zahawi said:

“We want everyone to have access to the high-quality training they need to progress and build a brighter future. 

“Apprenticeships will offer prisoners a lifechanging chance to gain the skills they need to secure a rewarding career, while providing more businesses with the skilled workforce they need to grow.”

At HMP Prescoed and Cilwrgi farm the Deputy Prime Minister yesterday (10 February 2022) met offenders working in agriculture in areas such as maintenance, animal care and woodland management.

The prison has one of the largest training programmes in the prison estate, giving prisoners the experience to plug local skills shortages and contribute positively to the community.

The new scheme is the latest step in the government’s drive to boost the number of prison leavers with jobs. Prisoners are already able to study, train and work while in jail and a further 5,000 prisoners take part in vital work in the community through release on temporary license, where they learn important skills and help shore up local labour shortages.

Prisons like HMP Ford in West Sussex partner with sectors facing staffing concerns – including construction, hospitality and agriculture – with a number of offenders also training up as HGV drivers.

Sector Response to prisoners being offered apprenticeships for the first time

Peter Cox, managing director of leading prison education provider Novus, said:

“Opening up apprenticeships to more prisoners is a positive step in reducing reoffending. Using education and training to support offenders from prison into employment is a crucial step in giving them the tools they need to transform their lives.

“Nine out of ten businesses that hire ex-offenders say they are reliable, good at their job, punctual and trustworthy. Novus already partners with dozens of employers in a wide range of employment sectors, and this announcement will allow us to provide direct routes into jobs with even more businesses in the community to address local skills needs.

“Novus is already carrying out a pilot involving serving prisoners carrying out training during their sentences, which will allow them to complete an apprenticeship more quickly upon their release. We are keen to explore how we can use our strong employer links to make use of the new flexibilities announced by the MoJ, and to discuss how apprenticeships could be made available to offenders in even more prisons.”

Jane Hickie

Jane Hickie, Chief Executive of AELP, said:

“We are pleased that the government has announced it will change the law to allow offenders to apply for apprenticeships, in a bid to create work opportunities and reduce reoffending. I know providers will be keen to play their part in supporting any programmes.

“AELP has campaigned for a prisoner apprenticeship pathway over a number of years. Our co-produced research with ERSA from 2019 found that a pathway would create significant benefits for prisoners, governors, employers and wider society – helping to reduce the £15bn annual reoffending costs. We look forward to seeing more details as this progresses”.

Marie-Claire O'Brien, Founder, New Leaf Initiative CIC

Marie-Claire O’Brien, CEO and Founder, The New Leaf Initiative, said:

“After campaigning and researching for years on the topic of Prisoners ineligibility to be included as Trainees and Apprentices, we are extremely excited about the news today.

“The fact that both Secretary of State for Justice and Education are supporting the ground-breaking, yet common sense change in Law to enable prisoners and Industry to access this solution in difficult economic times is imperative for a variety of reasons.

“Prison education to date, has been unable to bridge the growing gaps between low educational attainment of our general prison population, the essential wraparound support needed on release from custody, and the industry recognised skills and qualifications required to find, and keep jobs on release.

“Currently, only 14% of men, and even fewer women, find employment within 6 months of leaving custody, but with sectors such as hospitality, construction, warehousing and logistics, amongst many others experiencing significant and worrying labour shortages, this move will be fundamental in providing solutions for the ever-growing prisoner population and the industry leaders who need to access our talent pool of motivated and determined people with convictions who wish to turn over a new leaf.

“We have been supplying motivated workers with previous convictions to National companies such as Avanti West Coast, for over 6 years with great success, and now run a traineeship programme for young people who have been in contact with the Criminal Justice System; many of whom are care leavers with a variety of complex needs which we support.

“We would urge the Government to also include traineeships in the law amendment to support young people into employment and apprenticeships, and to also consider the holistic and wraparound support needed during the transitionary phase and how the third sector can play a role in providing this much needed element that employers and typical training providers are unable, and often unwilling to provide.

“As a female ex-prisoner who founded the New Leaf Initiative CIC seven years ago, and which has since supported thousands of people with convictions to turn their lives around and access training and employment opportunities whilst remaining person-centred and holistic in our approach, we will endeavour to do everything we can to support this innovative pilot project moving forwards, and hope to be involved in delivering some of the first Apprenticeship and Traineeship delivery within the Criminal Justice System.”

Sam Avanzo Windett, Deputy Director and Learning and Work Institute, said:

“The introduction of prisoner apprenticeships is  a win-win for prisoners and employers. Apprenticeships offer a quality route into work and, up until now,  prisoners have been unable to take these opportunities to improve their chances of sustainable employment.

“Organisations across the system, including employers and providers, have worked hard to push for this legal change within the complex set of arrangements. From here, this needs to build into strategic collaborations which aren’t limited to current high vacancy sectors, but open up to meet future skills and labour market needs.”

David Gallagher

David Gallagher, Chief Executive of NCFE said:

“We welcome this innovative programme that gives prisoners a second chance.

“Apprenticeships not only bridge the gap between education and learning, they also have a big part to play in addressing the current skills crisis.

“Everyone deserves the opportunity to fulfil their potential through the power of learning and at NCFE we believe no learner should be left behind.”

Sally Alexander - Principal: Milton Keynes College (Prison Services)

Sally Alexander, Principal, Prison Services, MK College Group, said:

“As a provider of prison education services, Milton Keynes College Group is delighted to see the joint commitment from the Justice and Education secretaries to providing access to apprenticeships in open prisons. 

“Having a job to go to is a massive incentive not to reoffend and as the government says, the vast majority of companies that employ former prisoners find them “reliable, good at their job, punctual and trustworthy.”  This has certainly been our experience as education providers.  It’s hugely encouraging to see a commitment to legislation being brought forward this year as a change in the law cannot come soon enough. 

“Apprenticeships transform lives, and this will have enormous benefits for so many individuals and for society as a whole.  Fairer access to skills and jobs on release are essential to levelling up a sector of society which faces so many challenges.”

This week is National Apprenticeship Week 2022 which aims to celebrate and promote the fantastic benefits which apprenticeships offer both learners and employers, spotlighting businesses who are investing in this life-changing education route.

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