More than half of employers believe that they have an important role to play in helping ex-offenders back into the workplace, according to a report published today.
The survey, Employers’ perception of best practice in prison education, from CfBT Education Trust, also found that one-third (31%) of employers questioned had employed an ex-offender. Almost two-thirds (58%) of these rated their experiences as positive.
The most common reasons for employing ex-offenders were their skills and attributes, as well as a sense of social responsibility. Employing an ex-offender was seen as contributing to corporate social responsibility, especially by those organisations most likely to employ an ex-offender (larger voluntary and public sector organisations), as well as half of all private businesses.
The skills that were seen to be most important in potential applicants were a positive attitude, cited by 44% of respondents, and technical skills (43%). One-third (33%) of employers agreed that prison education makes ex-offenders more employable.
The report also compared the views of employers that had no experience of working with offenders with those that had. Clear differences between the two groups were identified. Employers that had not employed an ex-offender were:
- less likely to ask for more information about a criminal record;
- more likely to automatically reject a candidate with a criminal record;
- more likely to be concerned about external perceptions and the reputation of the organisation; and
- more likely to say that nothing would make them feel more confident to employ an ex-offender.
Richard Goss, head of learning and skills at CfBT Education Trust, said: “Prison education is a vital part of the journey to make people work ready and to develop both hard and soft employability skills. We need to ensure that all prisoners have access to education, but at the same time that the qualifications achieved while in prison meet the needs of employers.
“To give employers more confidence to give offenders a second chance, perhaps through a work-trial, we need to raise awareness of what prison education is, what it offers to offenders and, ultimately, what skills and attributes ex-offenders potentially bring to the workforce.”