Job fair at HMP Pentonville

Prisoners Education Trust attended a job fair at HMP Pentonville on 15 May 2014 where we gave advice about qualifications employers are looking for. We asked one of our alumni, who is a  7 Pathways representative at the prison to review the event. To find out more about the 7 Pathways reps, read our Learner Voice toolkit. 

He wrote:

“Look in the mirror and think of that Michael Jackson song “Man in the Mirror” and also about yourself and what changes you need to make”. St Giles Trust employee and ex–prisoner Frank Harris’s use of the lyrics of a Michael Jackson song seemed like an apt closure to HMP Pentonville’s Job Fair.

Equipping offenders for life after prison is one of the main challenges. Preparing them to find employment is a known way to reduce the likelihood of reoffending. To address this pathway, the Head of Reducing Re-Offending invited Jason Brown, Integrated Offender Manager, and Jose Aguiar, from Education, to set up and coordinate this event.

The Job Fair, held on 15th of May, was part of a continuous strategy of the Reducing Re-Offending department to assist prisoners in terms of resettlement, and to raise awareness of organisations that can play a key role in supporting offenders. 25 organisations took part on this event including: Blue Sky Development; Royal British Legion; Only Connect; Fredericks Foundation; Kings Cross Construction; St Giles Trust; User Voice; Working Links; Prince’s Trust, JobCentre Plus and Avanta Work Programme, to name only a few. All organisations had stalls at the event, which run for the all day in the Sports Hall.

All prisoners were invited to visit the Job Fair, and they were encouraged and supported by the education department in writing their CVs in order to be well prepared when meeting potential employers. Over 300 prisoners attended the fair, and were directed and supported by the 7 Pathways Representatives to the various organisations that could help them, depending on their skills, interests and ambitions for future.

"I've been in and out of prison for 20 years and I've never seen anything like this," one prisoner said at the time. Another added: "There are lots of things here I'm interested in. I've got no excuses now."

These prisoners’ sentiments echoed with others that attend this event. Often sceptical of the prison’s efforts in reducing re-offending, prisoners were won over by the positive regard they were received in by the organisations that attended the event. From aspiring entrepreneurs to budding actors, there was something of interest for all the men that attended.

John*, a young offender who has been in custody 4 times since the age of 16, said: “I never had an expectation. I want to get involved in performing arts. I was very surprised that Only Connect said they could help me to develop creatively.

"Now, I feel confident that there will be something out there for me when I get out.”

Jason Brown, one of the coordinators of the event, said: “Any initiative that will help offenders to successfully integrate back into society is to be welcomed and encouraged."

The Job Fair formed part of Pentonville’s continued strategy to improve its delivery of resettlement programmes, build a bridge of transition between prison and community and empower prisoners to make informed choices of how best to use their time in prison.

Jose Aguiar said: “We believe it is vital that people leaving prison have an opportunity to earn an honest living if they are going to get a chance to keep out of trouble. Many of the people in here have a variety of skills that employers can make good use of, and being given a fresh chance is just what can make all the difference."

*Not real name.