The Ministry of Justice has just (8 March 2023) updated its guidance on “employing prisoners and ex-offenders” (why it thinks using the term “ex-offenders” is going to help people to move away from committing crime is a discussion for another day). Increasing the opportunities for people in contact with the criminal justice system to get work has been an MoJ priority for some time and this blog posts provides a short overview of the main initiatives available.
The guidance starts by saying that one third of businesses are currently unable to address skill gaps in their workforces and encourages them to consider hiring people with criminal convictions to expand the talent pool from which they are recruiting. The MoJ identify some of the benefits of recruiting people in contact with the CJS including:
- Reducing initial recruitment and job advertising costs
- Diversity, inclusion and social responsibility (which can enhance business reputation and help win contracts)
- Resolving skills shortages
- Reducing staff absence
- Increasing staff retention
Employability Innovation Fund
The fund is designed to enable prison governors to work with more employers and training providers to repurpose workshops and deliver sector-specific skills training. This is intended to meet the changing needs of the economy and smooth the path from prison to employment.
Employers are encouraged to train people in prison to fill sector-specific skills gaps.
Both the Future Skills Programme and HMP Academies have funding available from the Employability Innovation Fund to give organisations the opportunity to design and deliver skills training tailored to the needs of different businesses.
You can see a summary of both programmes below.
The Future Skills Programme
The Future Skills Programme works with employers and training providers to deliver training to prison leavers as they are approaching release.
The MoJ is encouraging businesses including employers, training providers, and consortiums of both—to design sector-specific skills courses.
It is looking for innovative approaches to equipping prison-leavers with skills to get and sustain jobs for the future. The MoJ asks that businesses offer a minimum of a guaranteed interview, and ideally a job commitment, to those that complete the course.
- access to a diverse talent pool from which to cost-effectively recruit
- the ability to deliver bespoke sector-specific training to meet business needs
- the opportunity to upskill individuals who are motivated, ready to work, and who are proven to have high levels of retention, reliability, and performance
dedicated support from the skills and work teams in prisons, and
- an opportunity to test and shape innovative approaches to rehabilitation in partnership with HMPPS
The Future Skills Programme will:
- provide the funding for businesses to design and deliver sector specific training courses lasting between 2 and 12 weeks.
- enable businesses to recruit reliable, motivated and skilled employees to fill skills gaps.
What employers/training providers will need to do:
design courses that would give a prison-leaver the skills needed to work in your sector or industry
provide a job offer or job interview for people who complete the course
HMP Academies are spaces in prisons, hosted by employers, who train people for employment on release. Timpson is one example of a well-established HMP Academy, which mimics their high street stores in a prison setting and helps prisoners to be trained in the services they provide. As many readers will know, Timpson have an impressive prison leaver retention rate and pride in their success is core to their corporate culture.
- training is employer led, linked to labour market demand and employment opportunities
- training takes place before release so employers can get to know individuals and build a relationship with them before offering employment
- prisons are based across England and Wales
HMP Academies will:
- invest in fixed prison training spaces which will be hosted and branded by employers
- help employers to provide on the job training tailored to their specific organisation’s needs
What employers will need to do:
provide a job offer or job interview on release for people who complete the course
host and deliver training in the spaces provided
New Futures Network
The New Futures Network (NFN) is a specialist part of the prison service that brokers partnerships between prisons and employers. NFN undertakes to identify the best option for any specific business. There are a range of ways to get involved:
Opportunities for serving prisoners
Employers can set up training and production facilities in a dedicated space within the prison estate. Workshops run by external organisations benefit from a dedicated workforce made up of serving prisoners. NFN will help identify what suits a specific business’ needs. This also helps prisoners gain valuable skills and qualifications which will increase their likelihood of securing employment after release.
Release on Temporary Licence (ROTL)
Release on Temporary Licence, or ROTL, is a scheme which allows risk-assessed prisoners who are within two years of release to work while on day release from prison. This can be for a full working week or part-time. It allows businesses to offer training and work experience to a serving prisoner and assess if they are right for them, before possibly offering them a job on their release.
Employment on release
Upon release, individuals can work and have full employee rights. The New Futures Network can help businesses arrange interviews with prospective candidates before they are released.
Over 400 businesses and government departments are providing employment opportunities to serving prisoners within industries workshops, ROTL placements and employment of prison leavers.
Thanks to Andy Aitchison for kind permission to use the header image in this post. You can see Andy’s work here