Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

How to Release the Wealth of Potential under Lock and Key

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

How to Release the Wealth of Potential under Lock and Key

Article excerpt

Getting employers to engage with prison education programmes can tackle far more than the skills gap

Barely a week goes by without a mention of the skills gap. Key industries in the UK, such as ICT, construction and engineering, are facing national crises in developing domestic talent. Even on a local level, small businesses are unable to hire staff fast enough to keep up with this growth opportunity.

With new approaches to prison education, institutions are becoming a source of talent that can be trained and equipped with the skills needed to boost national and local economies. This method has the added benefit of cutting reoffending and reducing the number of people returning to prison. It's easy to see the value of this to society, and employers have an important role to play in its success.

As an education manager in one of the UK's largest prisons, I see every day how prisoners take on new skills. Offenders often grew up with a negative experience of education - or in many cases never received any - so, in a number of ways, we have an opportunity to help people develop skill sets ready for the workplace.

We offer both vocational pathways and more traditional education to prisoners, depending on their needs and abilities, but an important part of our skills agenda is working with employers.

Ultimately, the aim of the prison sector is to rehabilitate and break the cycle of reoffending. Education undoubtedly plays a key role in this, but it is not enough on its own. One of the most successful ways prisoners break this cycle is through a secure job. However, a job is often one of the most difficult things for a prisoner to find after they are released.

We understand that there is often a stigma associated with former prisoners, and that many business owners and managers will be wary of employing them. To make things run as smoothly as possible, we use dedicated employment brokers who work with prisoners and local employers to ensure the process is a success for all parties.

Hands-on approach

As an education provider within the prison sector, Novus is able to develop a curriculum to meet employer needs and tackle the skills gap. Engagement with employers is a central part of this, as it helps to tailor our programmes and deliver the skills they need. …

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