First prisoners start work as apprentices after change in law

Up to 300 prisoners are expected to be recruited onto apprenticeships by 2025

Up to 300 prisoners are expected to be recruited onto apprenticeships by 2025

prison

The first prisoners to take up apprenticeships started work yesterday following a change in the law.

Legislation was changed on Friday to pave the way for prisoner apprenticeships, which ministers hope will help cut crime and reoffending as it will provide inmates with a direct route into work upon release.

Up to 300 prisoners who are eligible for day release and nearing the end of their time in open prison are expected to be recruited onto apprenticeships by 2025.

Large employers including pub group Greene King, retailer Timpson and construction firm Kier will take on prisoners as apprentices working as chefs, waiters and on highway maintenance projects.

Over the next few months more employers including Sheffield City Council, Co-op and Premier Foods have pledged to come on board to offer apprenticeship opportunities to prisoners. 

Prisons minister Rob Butler said: “Getting prison leavers into work is absolutely crucial – it provides them a second chance to lead a more positive life and cuts crime.”

‘This vital change to the law will help us to rehabilitate offenders’

The plans were part of last year’s Prisons Strategy White Paper which pledged to reduce reoffending and improve the employability of ex-offenders after they leave prison by improving prison education.

Ministers have considered the idea of apprenticeships for prisoners for the past five years but said this was not possible under previous legislation.

A Department for Education spokesperson explained that serving prisoners were not able to undertake an apprenticeship as Ministry of Justice policy prohibited them from entering contracts of employment to avoid contractual disputes that could arise due to the nature of their situation. Under current apprenticeship legislation, most apprenticeships take place under an apprenticeship agreement which is classed as a contract of employment in law.

Ministers have now changed the law so that prisoners will be able to undertake apprenticeships without the need for a contract of employment.

Skills minister Andrea Jenkyns said: “This vital change to the law will not only help us to rehabilitate offenders, but it’s also plugging the skills gap for the future. Apprenticeships give employers dedicated new workers in sectors like construction and hospitality and it’s great to have such high-profile companies sign up to help prisoners turn their life around through work and training.”

One of the prisoner apprentices starting work at Kier said: “This opportunity means a lot to me, and I was over the moon when I found out I had been successful. It gives me the chance to prove to myself, my friends, family and the wider community that I am worthy and capable of being successful. I am appreciative to Kier and the team I have worked with during this process, it has been made clear to me that my convictions aren’t a barrier to my success or progression.

Prison education provider Novus and apprenticeship provider Total People, both part of LTE Group, have teamed up with the Timpson Group to offer one of the first apprenticeships to a serving prisoner.

Peter Cox, managing director of Novus, said: “This important initiative offers prisoners the opportunity to develop new skills and acquire valuable experience of the workplace, which will put them in a strong position to secure stable employment upon release, reducing the risk of reoffending.”

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