Styal prisoners given help by Virgin

HMP Styal prisoners are getting help to prepare for the world of work under a new training scheme.

The three-week course aims to boost inmates’ “employability” by focusing on “soft skills” such as confidence-building, time-keeping and managing workplace relationships.

Run by Virgin Trains, the initiative, which covers topics such as team-building and problem-solving, is being piloted at and the operator is in talks about rolling it out at other establishments. At the end of the course, participants are guaranteed an interview with Virgin Trains.

Three courses have been piloted at Styal this year, in partnership with prison education and training provider Novus. Of 16 trainees on the first two courses, nearly half have been offered permanent positions.

Carla (no surname given), 34, who was recently released from HMP Styal on her graduation with Kathryn Wildman, Virgin Trains talent acquisition manager (Brian Hickey/Virgin Trains/PA)

Earlier this year, the Government announced a package of measures aimed at boosting prisoners’ chances of securing work on release after figures showed only 17% of offenders are in PAYE employment a year after release.

Prisons Minister Rory Stewart welcomed the new Virgin Trains scheme and called for more businesses to follow suit.

He said: “I’m delighted to see the launch of this programme as I believe passionately that, through work, people can turn their backs on crime and start a new chapter in their lives.

“The recent launch of our employment and education strategy shows our commitment to getting offenders into work, and I want to see more employers really stepping up and looking past an offender’s conviction to their future potential.”

Virgin Trains says it has been proactively recruiting those with convictions for five years and currently employs more than 30 people who were recruited directly from prison.

Kathryn Wildman, talent acquisition manager for the train operator, said: “We know that hiring from prisons has meant that we’ve benefited from access to great talent and we’re keen to see more businesses do the same.

“At Virgin Trains we want to hire the best talent no matter what their background and we hope that this course will help people with convictions find jobs and give a bright future for them as employees.”

Barbara McDonough, chief operating officer for Novus, said: “We know the value of employment in reducing re-offending.”

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