Employers have strong convictions to take on offenders

Searching among the ranks of ex-offenders and prisoners for talent is serious business, as two major employers tell Recruiter.

Searching among the ranks of ex-offenders and prisoners for talent is serious business, as two major employers tell Recruiter.

Dr Mary Harris works for the National Grid as the director of the Young Offender Programme across the scheme, which works with 80 different companies (including the National Grid itself) in 22 prisons.

She tells Recruiter that over 1,500 offenders have gone through the scheme and that of these “the re-offending rate is only 7%, compared with the national average of over 70%, resulting in a significant saving to taxpayers in the UK.”

Harris says that the scheme is motivated by talent needs, not charity: “We need good craftsmen and engineers, we need the best and brightest in the country so we would look to both traditional and non-traditional routes.

“If we could get all our craftsmen and engineers from traditional routes we would do it.”

Harris adds that in many ways, the process of bringing people through the Young Offender Programme is like a 14-week job interview, and can thus be more comprehensive and lower risk than a standard 15-minute interview.

Dennis Phillips, manager of Timpson’s Foundation, a non-charitable arm of the eponymous key-cutting and shoe repair business, tells Recruiter: “We have 94 in full-time paid employment inside the prisons,” adding that “the majority” of those employed by Timpson while in custody go on to work for the firm full time.

Once they leave prison, Phillips says: “We’ll give them full-time paid employment and they’re actually not treated any differently to other colleagues - they just get on with it.”

Phillips adds that such workers were not those in prison for the most serious offences, saying: “Obviously we don’t take on the mad and we don’t take on the bad. A lot of these people have just been in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

When asked why the company would go to such lengths to recruit, Phillips makes clear that this is not a charitable function, saying: “All we are doing as a company is tapping into a recruitment source - we really struggle to get people.

“There is the CSR [corporate and social responsibility] which we all have but at the end of the day we want the best person for the job and often we come across good people.”

Harris adds: “If someone is going to do CSR, this is not what they should be doing.”

Indeed, she adds: “As we are spending shareholder money it would be morally reprehensible for us to train people if we were not intending to employ them; our job is to make profits responsibly.”

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