Barclays boosts prisoners' job prospects

18 Jun 2015

A new collaboration between Barclays bank and prisons in Kent and Sussex aims to boost prisoners’ chances of getting a job on release.

HMP Lewes is one of the prisons involved, and since March, 25 prisoners have taken part in an employability course run by The Manchester College, NCFE accredited, which culminates in a day of mock formal interviews, held by Barclays.

“We’ve been impressed by a lot of the interviewees. Many people see ex-offenders as unemployable but it is inspiring to see the way many have turned themselves around through learning and their determination to succeed when they get back into the community,” says Amanda Toy, Barclays Change Implementation Engineer.

The process takes an hour, includes a panel of two Barclay’s interviewers, who give prisoners immediate verbal feedback on what they did well and pointers to develop and improve. After taking part, one prisoner at Lewes said: “It was really useful. The professional interview gave me an insight into how to conduct myself properly and areas of improvement.” Another student, said the process was intense but answering questions under pressure was a good experience.

Eligible to all men within the last 12-15 weeks of their sentences, this is an important course to help them prepare for leaving prison, according to Employability Tutor Tracey Johnstone, who says: “This course builds self-esteem. Over four weeks students take part in workshops, discussion, role-plays, all to build up their understanding of why certain qualities are important not just at interview stage but to stay at an organisation, long-term.

"We focus on attributes such as flexibility, commitment, team-working, honesty and accountability.”

As part of the course, staff inform students of what jobs are on the market then work with them to adapt their CVs to reflect any relevant skills and experience they have, while Nacro help them to write disclosure letters to include with job applications. Tracey says the Education and Skills Manager of HMP Lewes has been particularly supportive, and tutors encourage prisoners to include the skills they have gained in prison, which might range from working as a catering orderly to studying an Open University media studies course.

“A lot of it involves reminding them that they do have skills and it is possible for them to have a career, there are possibilities in the future and people will take them seriously,” says Tracey.

She hopes initiatives like this will help to break down some of the barriers around employing ex-offenders. Amanda agrees: “For us really it gives us a totally different perspective on the inmates and ex-offenders in general, as during the interviews they have been so engaged… I would encourage more companies to get on board with this.”

Are you in touch with any local businesses interested in offering opportunities to people leaving HMP Lewes? Contact Tracey via Tracey.Johnstone@hmps.gsi.gov.uk or if you work in a prison and want to set up a similar initiative contact Amanda on Amanda.toy1@barclays.com  

HMP Lewes student Matt reports back:

"I found the interview helpful, friendly, organized and well presented and very professional. The representatives of Barclays helped make everyone feel at ease and comfortable about the day ahead.

The day was divided into two parts for the interview, morning and afternoon session. I was one of the first, for my interview for a cleaning job in the local community when I get released. It was tense to start with, but after a few minutes I relaxed and started being myself and became more confident with my answers. I really enjoyed the interview. I was treated with respect and the questions asked were very considerate and straight forward.

There were a few tricky questions, just to make me think outside the box and take me out of my comfort zone.

These questions were expected to challenge me to be able to do a job under pressure, set deadlines, deal with difficult customers and how to motivate myself when I think I am having a difficult time but also to help achieve my dreams and aspirations for the future.

The feedback from the interview was very constructive, polite and very useful for my on going success of finding work when I get out of prison.

I was then presented with a Certificate in Interview Skills for participating in the Barclays Interview Ready Workshop.

I would like to thank Barclays for coming to HMP Lewes to help and advise me how to succeed in job interviews.

ENDS