Milton Keynes College Offender Learning team has helped more than five hundred former prisoners get into paid employment in less than three years. It’s thought to be the highest success rate among all the major education providers in England’s jails.
The College offers education in twenty-seven prisons across the country where 600 teachers and 300 support staff supply an impressive range of subjects from basic English and Maths, soft skills for communications and improved employability through to the whole gamut of vocational expertise including catering and hospitality, construction, barbering and horticulture.
The College’s Executive Director for Offender Learning, Sally Alexander says, “A key component of what we do in prisons is focused on helping people find a job. The courses we deliver are specifically designed to meet the needs of today’s employers and are generally put together with significant input from them. It’s extremely hard for anyone sentenced to prison for a criminal offence to find work but it’s doubly important that we make sure as many as possible do. The benefit to the individual is obvious, but for all of us it’s so much better to have former prisoners in jobs and paying tax than being tempted through a lack to work to go back to crime. We’re so proud of the staff who are giving them that extra hope for the future and of every one of those five hundred and more individual success stories whose lives are being turned around.”
The OLASS (Offender Learning) team has built relationships with a range of employers who are discovering the benefits of taking on former offenders trained the Milton Keynes College way, including Greggs, the country’s largest bakery chain, and RMF Construction which provides much of the expertise and building power for major road and rail schemes and public buildings.
Sally says, “We work with some amazing, far-sighted companies who know that a former offender is very likely to be even more determined to succeed than other people they may take on. People who’ve been in prison know that such opportunities are not easily won and they’re highly committed to being a success.”
Increasing the number of former prisoners who do find work is a high priority for the government. Announcing a new initiative for just such an agenda in May this year, Justice Secretary, David Gauke, said, “I want prisons to be places of hope and aspiration that propel offenders into employment, and ultimately help to reduce the number of victims of crime in the future. I believe passionately that through work, people can turn their backs on crime and start a new chapter in their lives.. We will reward good behaviour and hard work with opportunity.. Ex-offenders can make a positive contribution to their workforce, society and the economy.”
The OLASS contracts for Britain’s prisons are currently under review and Milton Keynes College is once again bidding to be one of the largest providers when the next awards are made by government.