Launched on 21st May 2019, the academy will support up to 168 prisoners over the first year, training them towards level one national vocational qualifications including bricklaying, carpentry and joinery, tiling, carpentry and joinery.
One of the first construction companies to support the initiative is Kier.
The £250,000 government investment in the new training centre is expected to be recouped many times over through reduced reoffending.
Justice secretary David Gauke said: “Broadening access to training and work opportunities is a vital part of our strategy to steer offenders away from a life of crime and ultimately keep the public safe. I urge more businesses to join this movement and help ex-offenders turn their backs on crime for good.”
The HMP Leeds academy launch is part of a new drive to rehabilitate offenders. Prison governors are also getting more autonomy to grant release on temporary licence (ROTL) to offenders, giving prisoners opportunities to work and train with employers while still serving their sentence.
Since May 2018 more than 230 businesses have registered to work with prisons and set offenders on a path to employment. This is further to the 300 businesses around the UK that were already employing ex-offenders. Businesses considering offender employment will be supported by New Futures Network (NFN) – part of the prison service launched in October 2018 to broker partnerships between prisons and employers. Prospective employers will have the chance visit potential employees in the academy.
Steve Mellor, operations director for Kier Housing Maintenance North said: “We’re pleased that HMP Leeds has launched a new construction academy, this is a great initiative to help towards the rehabilitation of inmates. We fully support this and are currently in discussions with HMP Leeds on things like running workshops, offering mentoring, donating surplus materials and, where appropriate, working with our client to offer work experience to prisoners released on temporary license”.
The training will be delivered by London-based charity Bounce Back, which already runs construction training in five London prisons. The project is funded via the HM Prison & Probation Service Co-financing Organisation (HMPPS CFO). HMPPS CFO is a £195m European Social Fund resettlement programme which delivers projects aimed at improving employability which are seen as key to changing offender's lives and reducing reoffending.
Another major construction contractor involved in offering skills training to prisoners is Willmott Dixon, which has set up its Building Lives Drylining Academy inside HMP Elmley on the Isle of Sheppey in Kent. Willmott Dixon intends this to be the first of a series of prison training centres to help offenders find jobs and rehabilitation on their release. [See our previous report here.]
Businesses that are interested in employing an ex-offender upon release can register their interest at offenderemployment.campaign.gov.uk