Job spotlight: Lawrence Beach - working with ex-offenders
Acorn works with ex-offenders, the homeless and those on the edge of society, to help them find a future in construction. Lawrence Beach explains.
Tell us about the work you do with School of Hard Knocks? What is a typical day?
Acorn has worked closely with charity School of Hard Knocks (SOHK) for three years. From its locations in around the UK, SOHK uses sport to tackle unemployment, crime and poor health, by helping ex-offenders and the homeless to take responsibility for their lives. The ultimate goal is for people to gain secure employment with Acorn’s support.
The day is split into two – rugby in the morning and employability work in the afternoon. We meet with course participants to deliver mock interviews, educate them on the construction sector and ultimately plan their routes into the industry.
“Even large employers are warming up to the idea of offering opportunities to ex-offenders and the homeless.”
We regularly bring construction companies along, who are open to employing ex-offenders, so participants get a first-hand account of the work environment. It’s really about improving their self-confidence and motivation to keep them on the straight and narrow.
It must be rewarding work. What skills do you need to do your job?
This work is massively rewarding, being able to offer someone a job or an opportunity, for possibly the first time in their lives, is incredible – to feel like you have helped in some way.
Many of the participants have challenging backgrounds – perhaps they’ve struggled with substance misuse or got trapped in reoffending. There is usually a barrier that needs to be overcome, so you need patience and understanding.
Seventy-nine percent of those who get a job through SOHK keep it, which is fantastic, but the understanding needs to be there that, for some, this may the first part of a longer journey. You must be open-minded, because there are some amazing people out there who just need some help.
How hard is it to convince employers to take on those who might get overlooked?
With CSR high on our construction clients’ agendas, it’s easier than you think. Even large employers are warming up to the idea of offering opportunities to ex-offenders and the homeless. Acorn has placed 40 ex-offenders into permanent construction, manufacturing and engineering roles since 2017, cutting the cost of reoffending by an estimated £427,990.
Society at large can benefit from attracting these candidates to the labour market and I would encourage more to do the same.
Image: Nicola Penfold