The Ministry of Justice has just released it’s Education and Employment Strategy, which it hopes will improve the skills of prisoners and increase their chances of getting a job upon release. Underpinning the reforms is the idea that by providing access to training in the skills that employers need, offenders will not only be better equipped to find employment at the end of their sentence, but this will in turn reduce reoffending rates. A win/win situation.
In his introduction to the report, the Secretary of State for Justice, David Gauke, notes that although a third of prisoners have some kind of job in prison, currently these jobs are not really geared towards properly preparing prisoners for the workplace or providing a route into a real job with an employer. He goes on to say that this is something which the reforms are intended to correct:
“The vision at the heart of this strategy is to put offenders on a path to employment as soon as they step foot in prison. …We must ensure that more offenders leave prison with the basic skills that are essential to entering the workplace and with the skills employers need.”
A big part of the plan to enable this to happen, is to give prison governors greater autonomy in deciding what education and training takes place in their prison. However, this still raises the question of how governors can know what skills employers in their region actually need.
The Government’s solution for this problem lies in the creation of the New Futures Network (NFN), which will replace the existing ONE3ONE Solutions system, and which will be given an explicit remit to:
“Broker partnerships between prisons and employers that create opportunities for ex-prisoners on release, in addition to delivering purposeful activity in prison.”
NFN will act as a key source of intelligence for governors about the requirements of employers in different sectors, and amongst other things it will identify priority sectors with which prisons should engage with. The selection of these sectors, which will be made on an annual basis, will be based on three criteria, including:
“Labour Market Information, including the number of jobs in different sectors and the education level, or qualifications required, in those sectors.”
And this is where Emsi comes in. Last year, Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) invested in Emsi’s Analyst data tool, in order to gain the kind of insight they needed to be able to understand regional demand for offender-level jobs. The Education and Employment Strategy makes it clear that the granular insight offered by the tool will be used not only to identify which key sectors are chosen each year, but also the regional nuances of occupation demand within these sectors:
“NFN will make use of Emsi, a labour market data tool procured by HMPPS. Emsi draws together data from a range of government data sets to produce labour market information and trends which can be broken down by sector and geographical area. For example, it can identify which sectors provide the most employment in an area, how employment in those sectors breaks down by occupational code and what typical wages and qualifications required for those jobs are. The tool also identifies leading employers in each sector, broken down by geography. This data tool will provide key intelligence for both the national hub and regional spokes.”
The new strategy comes at an important time, not just from the perspective of attempting to prevent reoffending, but also in terms of Britain’s longer term employment needs. According to Mr Gauke, if the plans to train offenders in the occupations that are needed by employers are a success, given that most of these jobs will tend to be towards the lower skilled end of the job spectrum, this could well form part of the answer to questions around the effects of reduced migrant labour in the wake of Brexit:
“Leaving the European Union is likely to have an impact on the workforce in sectors such as catering, construction and agriculture. I see an opportunity here for both prisoners and employers, particularly those operating in these sectors. We’ve got employers struggling to find people. Now is an opportunity to do that. Perhaps in the past the answer has always been about migrant workers that have made a big contribution to the economy. But I think the British public expect us to make sure as many UK citizens are employed as possible.”
We are thrilled to be playing a role in this important work and we look forward not only to seeing the strategy being implemented, but also the exciting possibilities it presents of helping offenders get back into work and closing a number of widening skills gaps.
To find our more about our work with HMPPS and with a number of providers of education and training in prisons, contact us by clicking on the button below.