With the long awaited Invitation to Tender for the Prison Education Framework (PEF) finally released, education and training providers looking to submit bids will be seeking to do all they can to make sure their bid stands out from those submitted by their competitors.
There are of course many areas which will need to be covered, but one area that is likely to be a crucial determinant of which bids are successful is a provider’s ability to demonstrate competence in understanding and responding to employer skills needs in a prison area. Looking back to the Government’s White Paper, Prison Safety and Reform, which formed the basis for the PEF, the need for a more localised, data-driven approach to prison education comes through a number of times. For instance:
“Giving governors greater autonomy over decisions made in prisons will allow them to target training and work in prisons to match more closely the needs of the local labour market … Governors will be encouraged to work with local employers and use data on the local labour market gaps to choose the right vocational training to help offenders into employment… [our emphasis].”
Demonstrating an ability to understand employment demand in a prison region is therefore not so much an option as it is a requirement. However, this is of course much easier said than done, and providers could well find themselves asking how exactly they can do this.
Having worked with a number of organisations in the offender learning space, including the likes of Milton Keynes College, the LTE Group and more recently the Ministry of Justice, we are in a good spot to be able to answer this challenge. When the 17 proposed PEF Lots were revealed at the beginning of January, the first thing we did was to “create” these geographies within our granular data, by combining the relevant counties and/or Local Authorities together. This means that we can identify occupation demand, down to the 4-digit Standard Occupation Classification (SOC) level, for any of these Lots.
We have demonstrated some of this capability in the interactive below. As you can see, we have divided the 17 Lot areas into three categories – regions, high security, and women’s prisons – and we have also divided occupations into three broad areas – Process and elementary; Service and sales; Skilled and managerial. The bars represent the total number of projected job openings in each of these occupation categories from 2017-2022, but by hovering over them, you can see the Top 3 jobs, according to number of openings for those regions (please note, we have included only Level 1-3 occupations, and we have omitted those jobs that are considered unsuitable for ex-offenders):
Of course, this is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of the total insight available for each Lot. But it does give some indication of what is possible for a provider that begins with the Lot areas, then uses the insight to identify the skills that are most needed in the prison region.
For the tender process, the application of this is clear: by demonstrating the ability to identify occupation demand at the level of the prison area, the provider will give those assessing their bid far more confidence in their capacity to provide training that “matches more closely the needs of the local labour market”.
But the applications go well beyond this. The focus of the PEF is to give offenders the best opportunities to get work at the end of their sentence. By using granular Labour Market Insight at the level of the Lot region, providers will also be able to tailor a curriculum appropriate to the needs of employers in that area; better engage with employers on the basis of a curriculum that serves their needs; and give better careers advice to prisoners that reflects the needs of the labour market into which they will be released.
Good local insight is therefore likely not only to prove invaluable to providers looking to make a successful bid, but also to those winning providers as they seek to implement the proposed reforms in ways that benefit prisoners, employers and local communities alike.
Download a copy of our free report – Offender Learning Reform: Labour Market Insight for Bidding and Beyond, or contact Andy Durman at firstname.lastname@example.org.