Chartered Institute of Building Magazine of the Chartered Institute of Building

Opinion

Working with ex-offenders in construction

8 January 2021 | By Stephen Simpson

Stephen Simpson offers an insight into Cidon Construction’s positive experience of working to rehabilitate ex-offenders 

Seetec Justice, a training organisation, is committed to working with employers to break down barriers when it comes to hiring ex-offenders. There are ex-offenders who may have the right skill set required for their trade but often struggle to access new work opportunities once they are released.

According to the Ministry of Justice, only 17% of prisoners leave with a job and half of employers say they cannot see the value in employing someone who has been in prison.

At Cidon we are bucking this trend, having taken on 12 ex-offenders with the support of Seetec Justice. The successful partnership started back in 2018 after I heard a radio discussion about helping ex-offenders to rehabilitate, find work, access housing and break the cycle of crime. 

More businesses like us need to get involved, we’re only a very small cog in a huge wheel. If we can take 12 ex-offenders in the space of 18 months, then a lot can be done. It’s important to educate other business leaders about the benefits of employing ex-offenders.

Seetec believes that ex-offenders are one group in our society that can sometimes feel they are forgotten during challenging social and economic times. Only by challenging existing perceptions about ex-offenders and stressing that many have valuable skills, either acquired before entering prison or gained while in prison, will more progress be made in eliminating barriers to work. 

In an 18-month period, Seetec Justice supported 200 prisoners in preparation for their release, arranging day release opportunities and engaging with local employers. This resulted in nearly half of them securing offers of employment for when they were released, nearly three times the usual employment figure for male prisoners.

One ex-offender taken on by Cidon was concerned about his chances of finding employment after release. James heard about the rehabilitation programme in prison and, as he had acquired labouring skills while serving time, felt it was a great opportunity. 

He joined us on release and has gone on to gain an NVQ in joinery. James has appealed to companies which aren’t part of rehabilitation programmes: “Everyone deserves a second chance, Cidon have invested in me and that has boosted my confidence. I think other employers should follow their example.”

Stephen Simpson is a director of Cidon Construction

Comments

Given the problems with all forms of cladding, cavity barriers and external insulation we are likely to see a continued amount of work for at least a decade.
There is a shortage of skills in this field and most suppliers need their systems installed to the correct levels in order for the work to be signed off. Would the suppliers be willing to give training to prisoners in order to benefit everyone involved? Companies like Gyproc and Siderise for example.

I Jones, 11 January 2021

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