Joint AELP/ERSA press release

Embargoed until 29 May 2019, 00.01hrs


‘More apprenticeships for prisoners would cut the £15bn annual bill for reoffending’, say employment and skills bodies

A new report has called for a cross-government approach to enable more prisoners to take up apprenticeship opportunities while still in prison, which can then result in sustainable employment for them on release.

Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP) and Employment Related Services Association (ERSA) have put forward a series of recommendations to kickstart the Prisoner Apprenticeship Pathway which was first proposed in a Ministry of Justice white paper in 2016.

Sponsored by Milton Keynes College, the report makes the case that far too many prisoners are being released back into our communities without the necessary skills and qualifications to be employed. And too many employers are not willing to take the ‘risk’ of employing an ex-prisoner. To implement an effective and sustainable through the gate prisoner apprenticeship pathway will require high levels of collaboration, leadership and an effective communication strategy to engage prisoners and employers. Without concerted action, there is little hope for reducing the £15bn bill that the country currently picks up each year for reoffending.

To get the pathway off the ground, AELP and ERSA want the government and programme providers to build on best practice by addressing the report’s recommendations including:

  • a need for the various Whitehall departments, such as the Ministry of Justice, the Department for Education, to form a working group which would look at issues like who would fund the prisoner apprenticeship pathway
  • good workplace type facilities inside prisons to enable prisoners to start their apprenticeships before release
  • improving the teaching of English and maths which remains a huge barrier to many prisoners gaining employment after release
  • pathway pilots focusing on specific sectors and trialling Virtual Reality technology and
  • continuity of support for the ex-prisoner with a single point of contact as the apprenticeship programme continues with an employer after release.

Clarity is also being sought on the legislative requirements about apprentices being classified as employees.

Co-Chair for Prisoner Apprenticeship Pathway Dan Hayes, Justice Solutions Director, Gov Facility Services Ltd (GFSL) commented:

‘There are already some emerging examples of good practice. However, if it was easy to do, it would already be happening! But we know that there are unrealised opportunities to replicate the ‘world of work’ within a prison setting that could support the practical vocational element of a Prisoner Apprenticeship Pathway such as catering, cleaning and facilities management, carpentry, electrical installation, plumbing, construction, painting and decorating and groundworks. Getting the Pathway off the ground would be a win-win for ex-offenders, employers and the taxpayer.’

Co-Chair for Prisoner Apprenticeship Pathway Suzanne Purcell, Employment & Skills Manager, Kent, Surrey & Sussex CRC commented:

‘There is no doubt these recommendations raise challenging legislative questions. However, the benefits of education in prisons being linked more closely to the skills required in the local labour market is key to developing appropriate apprenticeship opportunities as well as raising a sense of purpose, hope and aspiration in our prisoner population. The development of a Pathway has the opportunity to improve employment prospects upon release as well as reduce the rate of re-offending and the costly bill associated with this - rightly a priority for the Ministry of Justice.’

The AELP/ERSA report ‘Prisoner Apprenticeship Pathway’, sponsored by Milton Keynes College, can be downloaded to read here.

The report brief can be downloaded here.



Contact Aidan Relf on 07710 305182

Notes to editors:
About AELP
Members of the Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP) support employers in the delivery of over two-thirds of apprenticeships in England and they deliver other publicly funded skills and employment programmes. The majority of AELP’s 980+ members are independent private, not-for-profit and voluntary sector training and employment services organisations with employers, universities, FE colleges, schools and endpoint assessment organisations joining AELP in increasing numbers.

About ERSA
The Employment Related Services Association (ERSA) is the membership and campaign body for providers of employment support. ERSA has over 270 members spanning the public, private and voluntary sectors, with nearly 80% drawn from the not for profit sector.

About Milton Keynes College
Milton Keynes College has worked successfully with students both in custody and on licence in the wider community for almost 30 years. The College has delivered and worked in partnership, across a range of prisons and locations across England, to enable students to improve their personal skills and self-belief, whilst developing the skills needed to help them
settle into prison life, develop a career in custody or resettle on release. Milton Keynes College’s approach is to focus on character as much as the curriculum to achieve long-term behaviour change and lasting social impact, as they work to reduce re-offending through education and learning.

The Pathway Working Group
The Prisoner Apprenticeship Working Group is made up of organisations providing employment support in prisons and through the gate, who understand the unique challenges the prison estate poses for the delivery of apprenticeships, as well as the complexity of delivering within prisons and on release. The group was established in 2017 following the announcement of the Prisoner Apprenticeship Pathway in the Government’s White Paper on Prison Safety and Reform and is made up of AELP and ERSA members.



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