Celebrating skills development, in Prison, to support rehabilitation, on release

by May 12, 2023Future Skills Commission for Prisons, News, News & events, Prisoners and ex-offenders

For nearly four years now we have endeavoured, through our Foundation, to identify and activate practical ways for offenders to build skills and gain a job upon release. Reoffending costs approximately £18.1bn every year in England, and evidence shows that upskilling prisoners to gain sustainable employment upon release, together with stable accommodation and support, is the most effective way to counter reoffending.

As part of our Future Skills Commission for Prisons, we have now funded eight different programmes which have all sought to offer individuals in Prison and ‘through the gate’ the opportunity to develop vital skills that are needed in society. From construction course simulator technology with HMP Hull and HMP Humber, to rail and track maintenance qualifications with HMP Hatfield, HMP Highpoint and Intertrain – all the way through to pre-apprenticeship programmes via Breakthrough. The breadth of programmes we have funded has been vast, but the common goal the same – to support rehabilitation.

A Royal Celebration

Yesterday, we were delighted to have our President, HRH The Princess Royal, attend HMP Pentonville as we showcased some of the innovative skills development our funding has enabled in Prisons. We had representation from employers such as Co-Op and Greene King, and our charity partners including Bounce Back and Groundwork.

As part of the event, we had four exhibition stations which showcased the transformative role of innovative and quality training in Prison.

Bounce Back, presented their virtual reality headset alongside Keltbray, which is being used in Prison and the community for a Traffic Marshall training experience in which trainees are directing construction vehicles on and off site, as they would do in paid employment on release.

HMP Hull and HMP Humber presented their simulator technology alongside Tenstar. The simulators are being used to deliver high quality training which is boosting the confidence of learners and their appetite to want to get a job on release.

Groundwork discussed how their construction and carbon literacy training is being used in HMP Forest Bank to support the economy towards a greener future.

And finally, HMP Highpoint, alongside Intertrain, showed off their rail track programme which is allowing learners to complete flexible rail courses as part of DfE Bootcamp funding.

As well as exhibiting, our Chief Exec, Kirstie Donnelly MBE, hosted a panel discussion which included former prisoners, charity workers, employers and HMP Pentonville Governor, Ian Blakeman. Ian mentioned what a challenge it has been post-Covid to get men in his care in to the habit of going back in to education programmes. Lorna Jones, Social Mobility Manager from Co-Op talked about what a key role employers play and that we must start valuing those in Prison as being capable to do more than entry level roles. Junior Smart, Founder of SOS Gangs at St Giles, talked about his own lived experience and shared the importance of building trust with individuals so that they know there is someone out there who believes in them. Dr Kameel Khan, Founder of Project Remake, echoed Junior’s point about building trust. And finally, Ryan Hull, Labour Manager at Vital, said he hopes that in the future there will be more opportunities for individuals in prison to complete training and be guaranteed employment.

Speaking at the event, HRH The Princess Royal, said:

“We know that the golden thread for those leaving prison and not returning is made up of acquiring skills relevant to a job, being supported through the gate and into accommodation and an employer offering real opportunities.”

And HMP Pentonville Governor, Ian Blakeman, said:

“It is a privilege to have hosted this event at Pentonville. In recent times we have worked hard to boost those skills which help prisoners find employment on release, and it is fitting that City & Guilds and HMPPS can show this partnership together. This investment in to skills development will allow us to offer more to the men in our care, and be less constrained by the prison environment. Our ambition is to get more prisoners into employment on release, and I look forward to seeing what we’re able to do together in the future.”

What next

Back in 2019 we launched our Future Skills Commission for Prisons and announced £1m of funding towards programmes like those that have been mentioned above. Now that our initial programmes are fully underway, we’re delighted to have recently had approval from our Foundation Committee to open up the application process again in the beginning of June. More information on this to follow, but if you’d like to be alerted when we are ready with this, please email foundation@cityandguilds.com

Across City & Guilds we remain committed to helping people from all walks of life, equipping them with the vital skills and capabilities they need to find a job, progress within that job and go on to enjoy a stable career. And we’re looking forward to seeing what impact our funded programmes continue to have – on the individuals participating in them; the organisations they go on to work for and ultimately, the society we are all part of.

To have a look at the work we’re doing in Prisons, please click here.

To see the images from the event on 11 May 2023, view the full image gallery here.

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