Prisoners will be able to access apprenticeships for the first time in a bid to tackle skills shortages and cut crime.
The Ministry of Justice has announced it will change the law so prisoners at open prisons across England can apply for apprenticeship roles in industries such as hospitality and construction.
Currently certain prisons are able to work with employers to offer prisoners day-release placements and potential opportunities upon finishing their sentence, but this is the first time the government has opened up formal apprenticeship schemes.
The opportunities will be open to those who are still serving time but are out on day release or nearing the end of their sentence, the government said. This would allow them to gain qualifications while serving their sentence and gain crucial experience in the workplace at the same time.
The MoJ describes it as a “game-changing” move that will get more ex-offenders into jobs and cut the £18bn cost of re-offending.
Nine out of 10 businesses that hire ex-offenders believe them to be reliable, good at their job, punctual and trustworthy, according to a poll published last year.
Estimates suggest that more than 11 million people in the UK have a criminal conviction, with most offences occurring before the age of 30.
Well-known employers including The Timpson Group – where approximately 10% of the workforce has a criminal conviction – report that working with ex-offenders has boosted their reputation.
Justice secretary Dominic Raab said that getting prisoners and ex-offenders into work would offer them a “second chance” to lead a more positive life.
“Breaking the cycle of crime is critical to our mission to drive down reoffending, cut crime and protect the public,” he said.
Education secretary Nadhim Zahawi added: “We want everyone to have access to the high-quality training they need to progress and build a brighter future.
“Apprenticeships will offer prisoners a life-changing chance to gain the skills they need to secure a rewarding career, while providing more businesses with the skilled workforce they need to grow.”
Prisons including HMP Ford in West Sussex will partner with sectors facing staff shortages, including hospitality, construction and agriculture. The MoJ said it would offer “hundreds” of apprenticeships for prisoners by 2025, with pre-apprenticeship training for thousands more.
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