Working in prisons: Interserve's facilities management academy
Earlier this month we kicked off our ‘Opportunities for All’ campaign. The first spotlight shone a light on the work we have done – and continue to do – to give ex-offenders greater access to employment opportunities in our organisation and further afield, through our support of Business in the Community’s (BITC) Ban the Box initiative.
Building on our commitment to Ban the Box, we have also worked with BITC and other partners to look at ways we can provide skills and opportunities to young offenders on their release from HMP Brinsford in Staffordshire, through a Facilities Management (FM) Academy.
The academy that was piloted is the first of its kind for the industry and has shown how through partnerships like this, employers can generate the skills and training they need whilst also extending opportunities to those who really need them.
How the academy works
The academy was born out of Interserve’s involvement with the Reducing Reoffending through Employment Network. Working in close partnership with Milton Keynes College, a well-established partner with HMP Brinsford, Interserve identified prisoners with a good record and less than six months on their sentence to take part in the academy. All participants who completed the programme were offered an interview with Interserve on release, giving them the best chance to transition from prison to employment.
The programme was structured around a six-week accredited cleaning programme, finishing with a week of ‘core skills’ training required for working at Interserve. Alongside this, a representative from Interserve delivered sessions to build other skills - including understanding company values, communications and teamwork - with a view to preparing prisoners for the workplace on release.
Interserve needs a continuous stream of skilled workers to fill vacancies and fulfil contracts. We also seek to have a positive impact on the communities in which we operate, and supporting people from disadvantaged groups into sustainable employment forms a key part of this.
Scott Hill, HR Director – Commercial at Interserve, and the driving force behind the FM Academy Pilot believes these two objectives go hand in hand:
“First and foremost, it’s about doing the right thing. But also the reality is that by doing this we open up an untapped talent pool. Having visited a number of prisons there are some hugely talented and motivated people with skills that suit the Facilities Management industry.”
Creating a broader talent pool
The FM Academy allowed Interserve the opportunity to engage and train prisoners with the skills needed to work for the company, while also helping to broaden our talent pool and diversify our workforce. This results in tangible savings on recruitment costs, as well as having a beneficial impact on the wider community. We have also found that our commitment to working with ex-offenders helps us win new work.
At just 22, one young man is already putting his new skills to use, having secured a full-time job at Interserve, which has been able to make a very meaningful intervention at a crucial stage in his life, increasing his likelihood of a future free from crime.
Regional Trainer Michelle Thearle explains:
“These are young men who haven’t had the best start in life, or been given the right chances. Seeing them build confidence through the course is fantastic, but then being able to offer them a real, tangible opportunity on release makes all the difference.”