Accessibility Links

My first prison visit

The demands of a booming construction industry have led to an increasing skills shortage. Georgia Byrne visited a prison to speak with inmates to learn about how ex-offenders can provide a solution that will also help with their rehabilitation back into society. 

We are all aware of the skills shortage that has affected many sectors of the UK economy over the last decade. The construction and infrastructure industry is no exception – a report from regenerative construction specialists KLH Sustainability indicated that it was one of the hardest hit sectors during the 2008 recession, losing over 140,000 jobs across the country. Almost a decade later as an industry, it now generates around £90 billion annually and employs almost three million people, the equivalent of 10% of UK employment. But with an ever-ageing workforce (22% are over 50), there is a real concern that construction will face a skills crisis over the next decade and that not enough is being done to fill the gap.

A recent report by design & consultancy company Arcadis suggests that the construction industry in Britain needs to recruit one worker every 77 seconds – that’s 400,000 new workers needed every year, before even considering the effects that Brexit will have on an industry that is less and less appealing as a career option for the younger generation.  

 
Taking the Anderselite Initiative – Thinking Outside the Box


At Anderselite, we are always looking at how we can help our clients face this challenge by promoting diversity and targeting previously underutilised talent pools.  As one of our Divisional Managers, I decided to take the initiative and with the backing of my clients visited one of our local HMPs with the aim of interviewing and hopefully identifying some individuals for open roles. According to the Ministry of Justice, there were 84,562 people in the UK prison system as of March 2017, approximately 0.13% of the current population. However, over three times that number are on probation service, with the latest report showing 262,388 offenders under supervision as of September 2016.

Reintroducing and rehabilitating ex-offenders back into the world of work can be a complex procedure. Prisoners alone, if not equipped with the right resources, are more likely to re-offend and be recalled back into custody. The introduction of the Offender Rehabilitation Act (2014) under the coalition government ensures at least 12 months’ supervision for ex-offenders upon release and this is starting to show results, with a 7% decrease in recalls as of September 2016 when compared with 2015.

However employment remains an essential part of rehabilitation for ex-offenders who are hoping to return and integrate back into society. But the recruitment process can be complicated and involves many parties, all of whom must put their natural reservations aside. It is essential to provide direction and a set of clear goals for the individual who is looking for that second chance. A good starting point can be through training programs, such as the completion of a degree or industry-specific vocational certifications, such as a City & Guilds NVQ or Apprenticeship course.

 

My First Time in Prison – Investing in People

So, with all this in mind, I went into the prison anxious but positive. This was my first experience in a prison and, consequently, with prisoners, but I was reminded that great things occur when we push ourselves outside our comfort zone.

I soon found out that my preconceptions about prisons and prisoners were completely off the mark. The individuals I met were polite, frank and very open about their pasts.  Some had already served portions of a much longer sentence and I had expected them to be bitter and resentful, but they were positive and endearing, pragmatic about their situation and committed to doing something productive with their time. It was really inspiring to take on board their positive outlook and determination not to give up or give in to the stereotypical image that is often put on them by the outside world. They all wanted to find their way back into society and that meant employment.

The variety of training opportunities inside prison was equally encouraging. Some had gone back to basics and were learning to read and write, while others were studying for degrees. Many were undertaking occupational training courses, and supporting each other to jointly achieve construction qualifications that will prove invaluable in a sector crying out for skilled workers. Every single person ultimately had pride in their achievements, growing self-confidence and the self-belief that is crucial when seeking employment and a successful rehabilitation.
 

A Positive Experience – Diverse Recruitment Solutions

There are bound to be negative reactions around the subject of ex-offender rehabilitation and while I can certainly appreciate the reasons behind these, the logic and the economics of our current climate are a compelling counter. We have a labour shortage in the UK, especially within the construction, civil engineering and rail sectors. At the same time, we suffer from overcrowding in our prison system, so it makes good sense to help ex-offenders gain the skills & qualifications to access the jobs in these industries.

At Anderselite, we are committed to providing solutions for our clients and our candidates.  We recognise that helping individuals reach their potential and find a career is also a good for our clients who need talent to build their businesses.  Like our clients we are always looking at how we can promote diversity, provide opportunities and access skills.  Above all, irrespective of background, treat people with respect and dignity.

I personally had a very positive experience spending time with the inmates at a HMP and would love to encourage more companies and agencies to get involved. There are a number of high profile construction projects either started or due to start imminently across the country and to find the necessary manpower we will need to think creatively.

If you would like to know more about Anderselite’s diversity programme or are interested in employing ex-offenders please visit our website or contact Georgia Byrne for more information.

Add new comment
*
*
*
Anders spotlight