Prisoners to finally be offered apprenticeships

The scheme will initially be offered to up to a hundred prisoners across England before being rolled out across the wider prison estate

The scheme will initially be offered to up to a hundred prisoners across England before being rolled out across the wider prison estate

11 Feb 2022, 10:06

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Prisoners are to be offered apprenticeships for the first time to help cut crime and reoffending, the government has announced. 

Laws will be changed so that prisoners at open prisons across England are able to apply for apprenticeship opportunities in “vital industries”, such as hospitality and construction.

The scheme will initially be offered to up to a hundred prisoners across England before being rolled out across the wider prison estate.

The question of whether prisoners should be able to access apprenticeships has been long on the government’s agenda and was discussed in a recent prison education hearing.

“We want everyone to have access to the high-quality training they need to progress and build a brighter future,” education secretary Nadhim Zahawi said. 

“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.”

Prisoners are currently able to study, train and work while in jail and a further 5,000 prisoners take part in work in the community through release on temporary licence, where they learn skills and help shore up local labour shortages.

“We are introducing prisoner apprenticeships to give offenders the skills and training they need to secure a job on release,” said justice secretary, Dominic Raab. 

“Getting offenders into work offers them a second chance to lead a more positive life and stay on the straight and narrow. 

“Breaking the cycle of crime is critical to our mission to drive down reoffending, cut crime and protect the public,” he said. 

The government’s decision was welcomed by Simon Ashworth, director of policy at AELP, who recommended giving prisoners access to apprenticeships in an education committee inquiry last year. 

Peter Cox, managing director of prison educatio provider Novus, said: “Opening up apprenticeships to more prisoners is a positive step in reducing reoffending. Using education and training to support offenders from prison into employment is a crucial step in giving them the tools they need to transform their lives.”

Under the scheme hundreds of prisoners will start an apprenticeship by 2025, the Ministry of Justice said, with “pre-apprenticeship training offered to thousands more – preparing them for a full apprenticeship scheme or a higher skilled job on release”.

In an Education Committee enquiry session last month, skills minister Alex Burghart said that there is currently no primary legislative barrier to prisoners becoming apprentices. 

Burghart said this might involve prisoners to go out on day release and take advantage of “existing funding streams”.

At the time, Burghart said that the DfE had only been doing provisional work on the issue and that no formal commitments had been made.

The launch comes in National Apprenticeship Week.

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